Saturday, January 8, 2011

Potential Patriots opponents + Wild card weekend picks

Breaking down the Patriots' potential opponents and picking the weekend's winners

The New York Jets: The Patriots are 2-2 against the Rex Ryan version of the Gang Green -- tying with the Jets in the season series this year. However, in their last meeting, the Patriots routed New York 45-3 at Gillette Stadium. Brady had often struggled against Ryan coached defenses, however, his 326 yard, 4 touchdown and 72.4 percent completion rate in that game suggests he's figured it out.

Jets' quarterback Mark Sanchez, meanwhile, has thrown a total of seven interceptions when visiting Foxborough. Additionally, the Jets were 2-4 against playoff teams during the regular season, getting their lone wins over the Patriots in week two and a Troy Polamalu-less Steelers in week 15. On paper, the Jets seem like one of the best possible match ups for the Patriots.

The Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs are the only AFC playoff team that the Patriots haven't beaten -- which is of course because the teams never played each other. The high number of ex-Patriots on the Kansas City staff (Mike Vrabel, Matt Cassel, Charlie Weis, Romeo Crennel, Scott Pioli) has some worried that they could possibly give New England fits. The theory certainly holds some ground as former Patriot Eric Mangini's Cleveland Browns routed the Pats 34-14 in early November.

The Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens are the team that the Patriots don't want to see in the playoffs. New England has faced Baltimore eight times, losing only once. However, that one loss came in a 33-14 thrashing in last year's playoffs -- Brady's only home post-season loss of his career. In the Patriots three wins over the Ravens since 2007, they've won by a mere average margin of four points.

New England can certainly beat Baltimore, however, even if they get a victory they'll be licking their wounds heading into the AFC championship game. When the two teams met earlier in the season Vince Wilfork called it the most physical game he's ever played in his seven year career. It's the type of game the Pats, or any team, want to avoid in the post-season.

Wild Card Weekend Picks:

Indianapolis over New York Jets (31-27)
Baltimore over Kansas City (17-13)
Philadelphia over Green Bay (28-24)
New Orleans over Seattle (34-17)

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