Which potential playoff opponent for next week presents the toughest matchup for the Patriots? Which do you feel would be the easiest matchup?
Raj: I honestly believe Cincinnati would. Yeah you can say that Kansas City and Indianapolis would be tough too because we have not seen their team yet. But the thing is that other teams have already exploited the weaknesses of the Chiefs and Colts. I think the Patriots won't have a problem taking advantage of those facts. The Bengals are different because even though we know their weakness (combined with the fact that they don't have as solid of a defense as they had when we played them before), they still find a way to start trouble. And when it matters the most, the Bengals will play their best football of the year and give it 110%. That could be a problem and that's why i think they will be the toughest matchup for the Patriots. As for the easiest, I would probably go with Indy because their defense is still pretty weak. KC still has a solid defense. If the Chiefs defense fails them, then they won't win. But that defense has been pretty reliable for them this season. The Colts have already accepted the fact that their defense isn't that great and are just going to do their best with their offense, which isn't horrible. But defense wins so if you don't have a defense, you probably don't have a good shot at winning. Thus, I believe the Indianapolis Colts will be the easiest matchup for the Patriots in the divisional round.
Rick: The toughest matchup for the Patriots would be the Bengals. This is a team that punched them in the mouth back in October and held Tom Brady without a touchdown for the first time in 50+ games. The Patriots have often lost games in the past to physical football teams and the Bengals have a tough front seven even without Geno Atkins on the defensive line. Andy Dalton can be an issue at quarterback, but you can’t question the supporting cast around him in Gio Bernard and A.J Green. The easiest matchup would be the Colts. The Patriots handled Andrew Luck very well 14 months ago up in Foxboro. Also, Reggie Wayne is not at wide receiver for the Colts. Even with T.Y Hilton playing well of late and a good pass rush led by Robert Mathis, I think the prospect of facing a dynamic playmaker in Jamaal Charles makes the Chiefs a tougher opponent than the Colts on divisional playoff weekend.
Derek: I'll reverse the order and start with the team that I believe would be the easiest matchup for the Patriots, and that's the Chiefs. After starting 9-0, KC has limped into the playoffs with a 2-5 finish. They are 0-5 against the AFC playoff teams they've faced and only defeated one NFC playoff team, the Eagles, all the way back in September. I don't want to underestimate them, but it's hard to look at those stats and feel like they are a legit threat to knock off the Pats in Foxboro.
As far as the toughest matchup, I was tempted to pick the Colts, if only because it's a quarterback league and I'd take Andrew Luck over Andy Dalton eight days a week. Still, with Aqib Talib and the Patriots's secondary, I have a feeling they'd be able to limit Luck's production on a cold winter's night. That leaves the Bengals, who might not have the starpower at QB, but are a much more complete team. They're also a team that's smacked the Pats around once this season, and if you want a reason to be scared, look no further than the previous three years when the Patriots were eliminated in the playoffs by a team that they lost to in the regular season.