By: Joe Spinosa
As the Patriots enter the final Week of the NFL season, it appears as if nothing has changed in the 16 years Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have been in charge in Foxborough. Through 15 games, the Patriots are still the class of the AFC and have already clinched an a first-round bye. On top of that, all they need is a win against the Dolphins, who have already clinched a playoff berth, or a loss by the Oakland Raiders, which lost it’s franchise quarterback to a broken fibula, to clinch the number-one seed in the AFC Playoffs and home-field advantage for this postseason. Furthermore, the Patriots have been clicking in all three phases of the game, other than the times Cyrus Jones is returning kicks. Besides a nail-biting loss to the Seahawks, the Patriots have won every game since Tom Brady’s return from his Deflategate suspension, which now seems like ages ago.
So now I will look at the AFC Playoff teams, which are now set, other than seeding, and we can all have a big laugh about why the Patriots will send them home packing (The order written is in order of seeding in the playoffs, not including the Patriots):
- Oakland Raiders: The Oakland Raiders have been the NFL’s biggest surprise this season as the team has ascended from the depths of football purgatory, to an interesting young team, to now one of football’s most explosive and exciting squads. I never took the Raiders very seriously as Super Bowl contenders to start with, but now with franchise savior Derek Carr out indefinitely, there is no chance a team quarterbacked by Matt McGloin could beat Tom Brady’s team in the playoffs, even if the game is played in Oakland.
- Pittsburgh Steelers: The 2016 AFC North Champions are, in my opinion, the Patriots biggest competitors in the chase for an appearance in Super Bowl 51. With explosive talent like Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell, the Steelers offense is as lethal a group as there is in the entire National Football League. However, the Steelers have never scared me because I have always felt they can not come into Foxboro and beat the Patriots. Even when the Steelers had the best defense in football, I never felt they were a match for Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Therefore, if I wasn’t scared when James Harrison, Troy Polamalu, Lamarr Woodley, Casey Hampton, and Larry Foote were in the Steel City during their primes, I’m certainly not afraid of this Pittsburgh team with this mediocre defense.
- Houston Texans: They will start either Brock Osweiler or Tom Savage at quarterback; why do I even need to write anything about them? NEXT.
- Kansas City Chiefs: Other than the Steelers, the next playoff team I fear most is the Kansas City Chiefs. After the Patriots, the Chiefs are the second most complete team in the AFC. The Chiefs do not make many mistakes and have two excellent offensive players in Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill to pair with a great defense boasting Eric Berry, Marcus Peters, and Justin Houston, who, if healthy, is a top five defensive player. However, where the Chiefs fall short is at coach and quarterback. Alex Smith and Andy Reid are good, but they do not have the “it” factor to beat the Patriots in New England as shown in last year’s AFC Divisional Round last season. If the game was played in Arrowhead Stadium, I would be singing a different tune, but not this year.
- Miami Dolphins: The final playoff spot in the AFC belongs to the Miami Dolphins, whom the Patriots will play in Week 17. There is no chance the Dolphins could come to New England and win in the playoffs. Now, they are starting Matt Moore at quarterback with Ryan Tannehill out with a knee injury.
After looking at the playoff field the Patriots will be facing, all of New England can breathe a sigh of relief because this looks like an absolute joke. In fact, the two best teams after the Patriots in the AFC did not make the playoffs. The two teams the Patriots have struggled most against in recent years, the Ravens and Broncos, will not have a chance to avenge themselves against Brady and co. With an AFC field this weak, it might not be premature to look at some NFC opponents who might be playing in February. The two NFC teams that scare me the most are the Seattle Seahawks and New York Giants. I do not want the jinx the Patriots, and I am absolutely one of the biggest pessimists of a fan, but this prediction is more of an indictment on the rest of the AFC rather than the Patriots being great. Hopefully, we’ll see you in Houston.