Final AFC Standings 1. Colts 13-3 2. Chargers 12-4 3. Pats 11-5 4. Ravens 10-6 5. Broncos 12-4 6. Chiefs/Jaguars/Jets 9-7 Wild Card Round Pats over Chiefs/Jags/Jets Ravens over Broncos Divisional Round Colts over Ravens Pats @ Chargers IOW, the Pats most likely scenario is having to win a road game against a top notch team in the second rd, the Chargers being most likely. The Pats would be unable to run the ball against a Charger front 7 operating on two weeks rest. Jamal Williams, Olshansky and Castillo will stuff the run. Merriman will be back, as well as Sean Philips, who, along with Castillo, will collapse the pocket easily and put significant pressure on Brady. I share the belief of many Pats fans that the Pats current offense is not up to the challenge. On the opposite side of the ball... Even assuming Warren and Seymour are healthy by then, which is far from certain, I see Colvin being stymied by LT McNeil, just as the rookie did to Jerry Porter in the SD/Pitt game. Rivers will likely operate with minimal pressure. The key matchups would be Rodney Harrison, or the "SS of the week" vs. Gates, and Wilson/Hawkins/Seau against Tomlinson on screens and short passes. Those matchups decidedly favor the Chargers. Assuming Rivers doesn't turn into a Pumpkin like Pennington did against the Raiders in 2002, I see his day being easier than Brady's due to the fact the Pats have trouble applying effective pressure even when blitzing (re: Colvin), and the Pats age at LBer will have begun to take a toll so late in the season. The Pats will have to score big to win. Therefore, something on the Pats O must change dramatically between now and then. My suggestions: Maroney, Thomas, and Jackson must integrate more into the passing game. Otherwise the ship is sunk. a) More of Maroney in the passing game, less of Faulk. Find more ways to get Maroney in space as a passing outlet for Brady, a la Tomlinson or Addai. b) More of Thomas, less of Graham. Just because Graham is temporarily healthy doesn't mean he should get his role in the offense back. The running game, Graham's forte, is not going to beat the Chargers in SD come January... the passing game will. Furthermore, it is likely that Graham will be injured again by then anyway considering past history. Therefore, Thomas needs the reps. Thomas has consistent hands, and could be a viable option against the blitz in the Fauria role (that Fauria flubbed against Denver in the playoffs last year). The problem in the offense is SAFETY VALVES for Brady in the passing game. Dave Thomas is already more reliable at this than Graham. c) Let Chad Jackson make mistakes on the field between now and then without punishing his playing time. Even Cowher is doing this with Santonio Holmes, who fumbles every time he touches the ball. Holmes is still being given the opportunities, and is developing week by week. Is McDaniels failing here too? Why no crossing routes to take advantage of Jackson's speed and ability to break tackles? Jackson can win a game by himself, much as Watson did against Jacksonville last year in the playoffs. Jackson must be given more opportunites, with designed plays, to take advantage of that ability. The only way the Pats can beat a team, such as the Chargers, on the road, come playoff time: (1) Maroney taking screens and swing passes, perhaps breaking one or two for long gainers, threatening the D and forcing the Chargers to hold back on the blitz; (2) Dave Thomas quick outlet passes to beat the blitz on third downs; (3) Chad Jackson running a fly, or a crossing route to take advantage of his speed, breaking a tackle, and taking it to the house. It is time to make the scheme fit the available talent, not vice versa. The First Dynasty is over. Branch, Graham and Faulk were a part of that, but their time is over. The Second Dynasty is being born. The players who will make that happen are Maroney, Thomas and Jackson, and better sooner than later.