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Potential playoff opponents: Who do Patriots want to avoid in divisional round?

Ryan Hannable
December 28, 2017 - 9:50 am

Even though the Week 17 games haven’t been played, the Patriots have already clinched a first-round bye and will not play on wild card weekend. With a win on Sunday, they will clinch the AFC’s No. 1 seed and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.

The two wild card teams haven’t been decided yet, but this will factor into who the Patriots host in the divisional round.

New England will host the winner of the No. 4/5 matchup, unless the No. 6 seed upsets the No. 3 seed. Jacksonville is locked into the No. 3 seed and the Chiefs are locked into the No. 4 seed. 

Here’s a quick look at the potential teams the Patriots could host on Jan. 13 or 14.

Chiefs

How it would happen: If Chiefs win on wild card weekend and the No. 6 seed does not.

Why Patriots should want to avoid them: Kansas City is playing much better than it did in the middle of the season after its great start. That start included a big Week 1 win at Gillette Stadium against the Patriots. This would seem to give them confidence that they can beat the Patriots on the road, but even though Kansas City has had some success against them in the regular season, New England has had its number in the playoffs.

Ravens

How it would happen: If Baltimore is the No. 5 seed and wins on wild card weekend, but the No. 6 seed does not. (Baltimore is the No. 5 seed with a win this weekend against the Bengals.)

Why Patriots should want to avoid them: Baltimore has proven over the years it is not afraid of playing in New England against the Patriots. The Ravens are probably the team the Patriots do not want to play the most. They are a hard-nosed, physical team, which is what many teams who have beaten the Patriots have in common. Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense are also playing their best football of the year. While the Patriots likely would be significantly favored, the Ravens are the team that would likely pose the biggest challenge.

Titans

How it would happen: If the Titans get into the playoffs and win on wild card weekend. (Tennessee is likely the No. 6 seed if it beats Jacksonville this weekend.)

Why Patriots should want to avoid them: Tennessee is currently struggling, losing three straight games and has a tough matchup this weekend against the Jaguars. Also, DeMarco Murray reportedly has a minor ACL tear, but will try and play through it. If the Titans do get into the playoffs, it’s hard to see them winning a game. If they do, the Patriots would certainly welcome them to Gillette Stadium.

Bills

How it would happen: If the Bills get into the playoffs and win on wild card weekend. (Buffalo would need a win and a Baltimore loss, or a win and losses by the Chargers and Titans to get into the postseason.)

Why Patriots should want to avoid them: There aren’t many reasons why the Patriots shouldn’t want to play the Bills in the postseason, especially considering they haven’t scored an offensive touchdown against them in two games this season. If there was one reason it would be historically it is tough to beat a team three times in a season.

Chargers

How it would happen: If the Chargers get into the playoffs and win on wild card weekend. (The Chargers get in with a win and a loss by the Titans combined with a Ravens win. They also get in with a win and losses by the Bills and Titans.)

Why Patriots should want to avoid them: The Chargers are one of the hottest teams in the league, winning five of their last six games and have one of the better defenses in the NFL. In five of their last six wins, they have allowed 13 points or less in four of those games. Philip Rivers could catch lightning in a bottle and although unlikely, the Chargers do have the weapons to upset the Patriots.

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