Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 1/5/12

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 10: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots looks on against the Baltimore Ravens during the 2010 AFC wild-card playoff game at Gillette Stadium on January 10, 2010 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
The 13-3 New England Patriots enter the AFC Playoffs as the No. 1 seed. Once again, head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady are the dynamic duo putting the Patriots in prime position for a playoff run. But they can’t do it all by themselves. These are the three burning questions for the Patriots and their fans as the 2011 NFL Playoffs kick off:
 
1. Can Belichick Prepare The Defense?
Bill Belichick has been known as a defensive genius. A strong defense was the key to the Patriots' victories in three Super Bowls in four years in the early 2000s. But lately, their defensive draft picks and free agent signings just haven’t panned out the way the Patriots hoped and, without the right personnel, are unable to have a legitimate defense. This season, the Patriots rank 31st in overall defense and against the pass, allowing 411.1 yards per game and 293.9 yards per game, respectively. Wide receiver/return specialist Julian Edelman has been put into the lineup as a defensive back. Belichick is working with what he’s got despite the lack of overall execution this season on defense, and will have a lot more game planning to do for the playoffs if he expects to keep opposing offenses off the scoreboard and give the ball back to Tom Brady.
 
2. Can Brady And The Offense Overcome An Early Deficit?
Tom Brady has been as good as ever this season. He’s thrown for 5,235 yards with 39 touchdowns to just 12 interceptions. His top two weapons, wide receiver Wes Welker and tight end Rob Gronkowski, combined for 2,896 yards and 26 touchdowns. But two of the three losses by the Patriots came against playoff teams, the Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Giants, and both jumped to ten point leads against the Patriots. Also, in the 2009 Wild Card round, the Baltimore Ravens jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first five minutes before leading 24-7 at halftime. So as good as the Patriots' offense is, with as bad as the defense is, can the Patriots overcome early deficits when they are forced to pass against teams in the playoffs with good defenses? History would tell us no. 
 
3. Can The Patriots Win A Playoff Game?
In the 2007 AFC Championship Game, the Patriots defeated the San Diego Chargers 21-12 to improve to 18-0 and move on to Super Bowl XLII. We all know what’s happened since: a pitiful 0-3 record in the postseason. Last season, the Patriots seemed primed to make another Super Bowl run with a 14-2 record and Brady winning a unanimous MVP award after a 36-4 touchdown-to-interception campaign. But alas, they folded against a New York Jets team 28-21 at home that they had destroyed 45-3 just a month prior. Players, coaches, fans, critics and pundits alike have all wondered if the Patriots have lost their mojo. It would seem like it, but they could get over that hump and regain their confidence that could catapult them to the Super Bowl if they could just win a playoff game. This weekend, with the Patriots on a bye, they have to be hoping that things play out so that they don’t have to face the Steelers first; otherwise, they could be one-and-done for the third straight year. 
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