Originally written January 05, 2012 on Boston's Bettah:
Tom Brady and Wes Welker get to rest this week before their playoff run begins The NFL playoffs begin this weekend and the New England Patriots will not be taking part. Fear not you Patriot’s fans who went into a coma for the last seventeen weeks and did not know what was going on. The Patriots aren’t playing this weekend because for the second year in a row the team has secured the number one overall seed, a first round bye, and home-field advantage throughout the AFC Playoffs. Pretty good for a team that couldn’t cover a high-school kid out of the back-field. While the Patriots get to sit at home, relax, and watch football, four other AFC playoff teams are fighting to keep their Super Bowl hopes alive. The Houston Texans host a playoff game for the first time in franchise history against the Cincinnati Bengals while the Pittsburgh Steelers travel to Denver to take on the Tebows. In addition to relaxing, you can bet the Patriots will be watching these games with intent on learning anything they can about their potential opponents. Three of the teams – the Broncos Tebows, the Steelers, and the Bengals – all exist as enemies in round two for the New England Patriots. Obviously, the Patriots will want to have the mindset that each team will be a tough out because everyone is a playoff team, but in the back of their minds, there are teams that the coaches and players would rather play than the others. Think the Patriots were happy that the Jacksonville Jaguars came to New England instead of the Steelers in 2007? Absolutely they were. Having said that, let’s break down the Patriots potential second round playoff foes. Cincinnati Bengals Record – (9-7, AFC North Wild-Card) Scenario to play the Patriots - Beat Houston Texans Pros - The Bengals start a rookie quarterback – Andy Dalton – and historically rookie quarterbacks struggle in the playoffs. Their offense is in the bottom half of the league (20th in total yards, 18th in scoring). They aren’t exactly a scary team talent wise. Outside of A.J Green, there really is no one that can attack the anemic secondary of the Patriots. Of all the teams in the AFC play-off bracket, they are arguably the least talented. They are also somehow still coached by Marvin Lewis after all these years. He’s been the playoffs twice before and has a record of (0-2), you can argue their due for a run, but maybe something else is wrong here. Cons – The Bengals defense is really, really good. They are ninth in the league in scoring defense and seventh in the league in yards given up. It’s not because they are necessarily stacked with talent – although Reggie Nelson and and Rey Maualuga are quietly two of the better players at their positions – but defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer is fantastic at scheming and always has a physical defense. This could be bad for the Patriots because the Patriots have struggled against physical teams this season. Also, if weather comes to Foxboro for the Saturday night 8:00 PM game, it could favor the physicality of the Bengals. In Play – If the Bengals play the Patriots in round two, is anyone betting against a Chad Ochocinco 7 catches, 117 yards 1 touchdown performance in his first game against his old team? I’m not. I want to play these guys rating - 7/10 Pittsburgh Steelers Record - (12 -4, AFC North Wild-Card) Scenario to play the Patriots - Win and have Houston beat Cincinnati Pros – The Pittsburgh Steelers may be the most banged up team coming into the post-season with quarterback Ben Rothlisberger suffering from a sprained ankle and running back Rashard Mendenall having recently torn his ACL. Patriots coach Bill Belichick is also a master at scheming for a second game against a team during a season. He rarely loses twice to a team in the same season, and it’s only happened twice when the second game comes in the post-season (the 06-07 Colts, and the 09-10 Jets). The Pittsburgh Steelers are also 21st in scoring offense which is promising for the Patriots defense. Cons – Of all the teams in the post-season, this is probably the team the Patriots don’t want to play. They are one of only three teams to beat the Patriots this year and played the almost perfect game-plan to stop Tom Brady and the offense. They beat the Patriots because they are incredibly physical and, again, the Patriots struggle against physical football teams because of the way they play football. They also have the most post-season chops of the AFC playoff teams having represented the AFC in the Super Bowl 2 of the past 3 years. This team may be banged up, but they are so well coached and physical that they can definitely beat the Patriots, and make it look easy in the process. In Play – The last time the Steelers beat the Patriots in the regular season and played them in the post-season was 04-05 when the Patriots blew out the Steelers in the AFC Championship game in Pittsburgh. Granted, that was the height of the Patriots dynasty and Ben Rothlisberger’s rookie season, but still, I’m holding on hope for that. I want to play these guys rating - 4-10, and the 4 is really only because I like revenge. Denver Broncos Record – (8-8, AFC West Champions) Scenario to play the Patriots - Win and have Houston beat Cincinnati Pros – Not only did the Patriots draw up the perfect game plan to stop Denver quarterback Tim Tebow, but they have sent the Broncos into a tail-spin. The Broncos haven’t won a game since losing to the Patriots and the Tebow magic may be running out. They won the worst division in football, will be playing outside Denver and are in the bottom ten in the league in offense. May I also mention that Tim Tebow has a passer rating of 43.2, the lowest of any starter in the league? Cons – Tim Tebow. This team has the highest “Nobody believes in us” factor of any team in the post-season field. No one thinks they can beat Pittsburgh never mind make a run to the AFC Championship. Why would anyone bet against Tim Tebow? Sure, he has looked bad the past few weeks, but this is also the same kid who was never, ever, ever, supposed to start in the National Football League. In college, he thrived in bowl or championship games, only losing once to Alabama in the SEC championship. Something tells me he is bringing his A-game to Festivus. The Broncos are also one of the few teams in the league to successfully run the ball against the Patriots this year as they had almost 200 yards rushing in the first half of their first meeting. In play – Tebow time. I know we beat him already, but if they get to the second round of the playoffs, something is going to be going on and I don’t like it. I want to play these guys rating - 7/10

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