This weekend is Wildcard Weekend and the first set of playoff games this season. The Patriots ended up with the number 2 seed, and although that potentially forfeits home field for the AFC Championship game, it remains the best case scenario for the Patriots. The Pat’s seed earns them a first round bye but this weekend is the most important weekend yet in the 2015-2016 season.
Saturday at 8:15 the Pittsburgh Steelers play the Cincinnati Bengals and everyone in New England should be big time Steelers fans this weekend. Pittsburgh winning can be the difference between a relatively easy road to the Superbowl or a heartbreaking playoff loss for the Pats and here’s why.
The Steelers winning on Saturday means they go and play in Denver for the Divisional round, and the Pats get the winner of Houston and Kansas City, neither of which realistically have the offense to win a playoff game in Foxboro against a healthy Patriots. If the Bengals win, they come to Foxboro. Cincy doesn’t necessarily scare me, it’s more about Denver getting the easy road with Houston or Kansas City.
This takes us to the Divisional Round and hopefully a Pittsburgh at Denver match up. Again, the people of New England find themselves rooting hard for Big Ben and the Steelers who can realistically beat Denver with their high-powered offense. Assuming the Pats make quick work of their match up against KC/Houston who have no business on the same field as them, we’re looking at a Steelers Patriots AFC Championship game in Foxboro.
Like most AFC Championship game opponents, aside from the awful Colts last year, the Steelers are not a team to take lightly. They have one of the most prolific offenses in the league and a defense that is young and growing by the week. The Pittsburgh offense is well-rounded, ranking third in the league in total yards per game with 395.4. Historically, the Patriots match up very well against teams like the Steelers. Belichick has always done well against teams with “Super Star” players like Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh’s biggest weapon and in my opinion the best receiver in the league. Brown finished this season with career highs in catches and yards with 136/1834 as well as an impressive 10 touchdowns. The Patriots never let one player beat them and opponents always need one of their lesser known players to step up. This game would be a shootout and would come down to the Pat’s D being far superior to Pittsburgh’s D and playing in Foxboro.
Again, this is all best case scenario and best case scenario rarely works out perfectly. If Denver or Cincinnati manage to beat Pittsburgh the Pat’s road gets significantly tougher. They would potentially have to play Denver and their great defense in Denver, a place the Pats do not do historically well. Since 2008, that Pats are 1-3 in Denver (including playoffs). The Patriots Superbowl hopes could sway one way or another on a weekend they don’t even play. Go Steelers!