The Patriots could have continued their quest for the AFC’s No. 1 seed on Sunday. Instead, they may not get a first-round bye at all.
The late-game letdown in Miami now has the Patriots’ playoff destiny out of their hands. Sure, New England can clinch the AFC East with a win next week in Baltimore, but, if they want home-field advantage or even a bye, they’ll need a good deal of help from some other AFC contenders.
Whether they are playing on wild-card weekend or actually land one of the two first-round byes, the Patriots will have a difficult road ahead of them no matter who they draw come playoff time. Injuries have ravaged them on both sides of the football, and, while the fourth-quarter comebacks are certainly exciting, their inability to play a full 60 minutes will be exploited against some of the league’s best teams.
The Patriots have already played two of the AFC’s likely playoff teams in the Broncos and Bengals, and they’ll face another in Baltimore next weekend. Each of them could pose a significant challenge for the Patriots this postseason. The Broncos boast the NFL’s best offense. The Chiefs have arguably the best defense. The Colts are up-and-comers, and Andrew Luck seems ready to retake the big stage. The Bengals already toasted Tom Brady and Co. earlier this season. And the Ravens, well, there is plenty of history between both teams.
With so many good teams populating the AFC playoff picture, who do you think would be the Patriots’ biggest threat come playoff time? Let your voice be heard in the poll below.