An Outsider's View of the AFC Playoff Field (and Threats to Pats)

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Wheelman

Pro Bowl Player
Yeah I would think that the greatest threats to the Pats will be teams with fearsome front 7s...so probably prospective NFC opponents will present a greater challenge.

I hear you on the Ravens....But I would point out that they did lose 4 of its last 5 during their SB year. If any year was an example of 'falling into the playoffs' that was it. But in any event IMO it's less about records in the playoffs than matchups...the Ravens have all kinds of problems, but the *type* of team they are I think can be challenging to a team like the Pats (or really, any high-powered offense with a less mobile QB, that has off and on issues with its OL play) Still it would be a shocker for the Ravens to even reach Foxboro, let alone win :)

I think people grossly overestimates the Ravens. The reason they gave the Patriots such a hard time(despite the lopsided win-loss column) was because Ray Lewis and Ed Reed making sure everyone was in the right place to neutralize the Patriots' scheming. They're both gone, I doubt they'll pose the same sort of problem.
 

TheBostonStraggler

Experienced Starter w/First Big Contract
No BS, the team most likely to beat the New England Patriots in the AFC is the New England Patriots. If the Patriots show up and execute well (with a nod to the need for the OL to show up and execute well) -- considering both games are in Foxboro -- IMHO we don't get beat by anyone in the AFC.

The Patriots have an excellent 'at home' history. However, take a look at the several home field playoff loses that have occurred under BB and compare those teams to the 2014 team. 3 of those home playoff losses were by Patriot teams with some serious flaws and/or majorly key injuries. The '09 and '12 home losses against the Ravens where they scored 30 or more? Unlike those teams this Patriot Defense comes into the playoffs demonstrably capable of stopping the pass and stopping the run. No way do the Ravens get anywhere near 30 against the 2014 Patriot D as it currently stands, none of the AFC is likely to. IMHO this is the best AFC playoff scenario the Patriots have been in since 07. The 2014 playoffs will start with [Buff game not withstanding] the Patriots being #1 seed, #1 scoring offense, #8 in scoring defense, and posses all around very good STs).

As far as the NFC? If we don't beat ourselves/pitch into our own defeat to make it to the SB? At that time I'll look forward to seeing BB and staff find a way to put the players in positions to get it done against whoever the NFC representative is.....
 

SVN

PatsFans.com Retired Jersey Club
Yeah I would think that the greatest threats to the Pats will be teams with fearsome front 7s...so probably prospective NFC opponents will present a greater challenge.

I hear you on the Ravens....But I would point out that they did lose 4 of its last 5 during their SB year. If any year was an example of 'falling into the playoffs' that was it. But in any event IMO it's less about records in the playoffs than matchups...the Ravens have all kinds of problems, but the *type* of team they are I think can be challenging to a team like the Pats (or really, any high-powered offense with a less mobile QB, that has off and on issues with its OL play) Still it would be a shocker for the Ravens to even reach Foxboro, let alone win :)
Good front 7 and teams which will play tight man will give us problems. If the steelers throw out their traditional defense like they did few years ago and play tight man coverage they have a chance to control the pats offense. Our WRs minus Gronk are not good getting open against tight man coverage,a problem which still exists. You want the pats to beat you throwing deep to Tyms even if brady hits one of those. Its almost a given he is throwing the ball to tyms when he is on the field which shows how thin we are at field stretching WRs. Gronk is the X-Factor but all it takes is a couple of plays/turnovers to change the game and the playoffs are all tight and tough. Add it to it our recent sputtering offense and that the offense has some Green players in it with new olineman and Lafell etc etc who will feel the playoff pressure. Iam relying on our defense to carry us in 2 more games ,although our D has done its job in the past in the playoffs -its our high scoring offenses which have let us down.
 

Mike the Brit

Minuteman Target
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Lilloyd, are you worried by the Steelers' reliance on Bell, good player though he is? You ought to be, I think.
 

Major **********

Third String But Playing on Special Teams
These are the points scored for NE with Brady at QB against Pitt. This excludes the Cassel year and the 2002 AFCCG since Drew played and for the majority of that game. Bolded ones are in Foxborough. Red ones were Pats losses.
55, 17, 39, 34, 23, 41, 20, 30.
I think any of the playoffs teams have a decent chance at beating the Pats, especially if the O-line and the offense don't get their **** together. We have a flawed team but so is the rest of the AFC. We are hard to beat at home but it can be done. I am still more concerned with Denver than any of the other teams but I wouldn't be surprised if any of them came to Foxborough and pulled an upset.
 

Archeryaddict12

Experienced Starter w/First Big Contract
These are the points scored for NE with Brady at QB against Pitt. This excludes the Cassel year and the 2002 AFCCG since Drew played and for the majority of that game. Bolded ones are in Foxborough. Red ones were Pats losses.
55, 17, 39, 34, 23, 41, 20, 30.
I think any of the playoffs teams have a decent chance at beating the Pats, especially if the O-line and the offense don't get their **** together. We have a flawed team but so is the rest of the AFC. We are hard to beat at home but it can be done. I am still more concerned with Denver than any of the other teams but I wouldn't be surprised if any of them came to Foxborough and pulled an upset.

If the team executes and is healthy, it has no flaws. This may be the most complete team in the playoffs this year imo
 

TheBostonStraggler

Experienced Starter w/First Big Contract
If the team executes and is healthy, it has no flaws. This may be the most complete team in the playoffs this year imo

I wouldn't go so far to say it would have no flaws, however, I agree with the general sentiment. IF the Patriots execute (execute also equals the OL playing like week 5 thru week 13), the only clear weakness I see is an inadequate pass rush.
If BB and staff can scheme up/coach up a better than average post season pass rush to go along with the other areas executing as they have done most often in 2014? This Patriots team is going to be very very difficult to beat.
Even with a soft pass rush I still believe this Patriots team will be difficult to beat provided the OL protects Brady. BB, this overall D, these STs to go with Brady having time to pass is like the "smell of napalm in the morning".
 

everlong

Veteran Starter w/Big Long Term Deal
Good write up. I don't know if there is a team I would give more than a puncher's chance of beating the Pats. Anything can happen in the playoffs and we have seen teams left for dead going into the playoffs become Super Bowl champs (Baltimore, Giants).

I hope you're only talking about the AFC because several NFC teams have a lot more than a punchers chance.

I would give the Steelers the best shot to beat the Pats, but Dick LeBeau has never been able to stop Brady and the Pats offense. He has only done it once and that is when he totally scrapped his typical zone based defense and went to almost exclusive man-to-man throwing the Pats off kilter. But LeBeau doesn't have the secondary to do it this year. On offense, they have a better chance because the Pats struggle against mobile QBs because they play contain pass rushing to keep them in the pocket giving them time to throw.

Actually twice and both were Halloween weekend in 2004 and 2011. I like to say the offense went trick or treating as the Jets.
 

Rob0729

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PatsFans.com Supporter
I hope you're only talking about the AFC because several NFC teams have a lot more than a punchers chance.



Actually twice and both were Halloween weekend in 2004 and 2011. I like to say the offense went trick or treating as the Jets.

This thread is about the AFC. I am only commenting about the AFC.

I didn't think that LeBeau was the DC in 2004. Maybe I am wrong. But that loss was big because Law went down and the Pats didn't have an answer for replacing him along with the Pats not having Corey Dillon in that game and not having a RB who could run. So there are reasons the Pats lost that game other than the the Steelers outplayed them.

But then again, LeBeau getting the best of Brady twice in 15 years is not exactly strong evidence to shoot holes in my argument. I will add another since he was the assistant head coach for Buffalo in 2003, but that first loss was probably because the Pats were in a funk from the loss of Milloy.
 

robertweathers

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This thread is about the AFC. I am only commenting about the AFC.

I didn't think that LeBeau was the DC in 2004. Maybe I am wrong. But that loss was big because Law went down and the Pats didn't have an answer for replacing him along with the Pats not having Corey Dillon in that game and not having a RB who could run. So there are reasons the Pats lost that game other than the the Steelers outplayed them.

But then again, LeBeau getting the best of Brady twice in 15 years is not exactly strong evidence to shoot holes in my argument. I will add another since he was the assistant head coach for Buffalo in 2003, but that first loss was probably because the Pats were in a funk from the loss of Milloy.
LeBeau was DC in 04.

I agree- Pitt's D does not concern me. With the exception of last year and a couple of games in past years, Brady seems to do very well
 

everlong

Veteran Starter w/Big Long Term Deal
This thread is about the AFC. I am only commenting about the AFC.

I figured so we agree.
I didn't think that LeBeau was the DC in 2004. Maybe I am wrong. But that loss was big because Law went down and the Pats didn't have an answer for replacing him along with the Pats not having Corey Dillon in that game and not having a RB who could run. So there are reasons the Pats lost that game other than the the Steelers outplayed them.

But then again, LeBeau getting the best of Brady twice in 15 years is not exactly strong evidence to shoot holes in my argument. I will add another since he was the assistant head coach for Buffalo in 2003, but that first loss was probably because the Pats were in a funk from the loss of Milloy.

I think you're correct about LeBeau in 2004 but it was still basically his schemes but the point still stands that more of less Brady has owned him. Weird because Peyton by and Large had done better against Rex but really struggled against LeBeau.

In his prime you would watch Polamalu read the QB and come flying up and make a play way out of position but Brady played him like a fiddle. Yes Reed had success doing it. Matchups are funny that way.
 

Oswlek

Veteran Starter w/Big Long Term Deal
This thread is about the AFC. I am only commenting about the AFC.

I didn't think that LeBeau was the DC in 2004. Maybe I am wrong. But that loss was big because Law went down and the Pats didn't have an answer for replacing him along with the Pats not having Corey Dillon in that game and not having a RB who could run. So there are reasons the Pats lost that game other than the the Steelers outplayed them.

But then again, LeBeau getting the best of Brady twice in 15 years is not exactly strong evidence to shoot holes in my argument. I will add another since he was the assistant head coach for Buffalo in 2003, but that first loss was probably because the Pats were in a funk from the loss of Milloy.

Yup. Both low point totals were on the road and actually had as much to do with the defense as they did on offense. In fact, after struggling for the opening quarter (including a pick six), NE actually moved the ball pretty well despite missing Branch and Dillon.

Only 2011 stands out as evidence that Pitt can slow Tom down, and that was the game when they surprised everyone by actually playing man. Something tells me NE will be more prepared for it this time around.
 

jmt57

Moderator
Staff member
Just wanted to give this a quick bump for anyone that may have missed it.

For anyone that doesn't know him, @lillloyd has been a long-time occasional visitor that offers some very refreshing outside perspective. I always enjoy reading well thought out football opinions from fans of other teams, as they see a whole lot more of their favorite teams and their division rivals than we do. Thanks much for taking the time to write.
 

PATSYLICIOUS

Pro Bowl Player
Agree that the Pats should be favored to advance to the SB. Unfortunately of all the playoff losses in the BB era, the only time you could have clearly pegged the Pats as underdogs was last year's AFCC in Denver (2009 vs. balt with a depleted offense could be another). Otherwise most of the playoff losses, like the potential AFC matchups this year, we were going into games that we seemingly should win. So as in the past, it's going to boil down to how we play in the trenches and with the recent OL struggles it's a little bit concerning.

Of course, this is the one year since 2004 that I feel like our defense is capable of going out there and winning a game for us but also lately it seems like Chung/Ryan/Butler, the weak links in the defense, have been taken advantage of late as well and it's something playoff opponents may build off of. That's why I think the interior OL is the absolute key here because as good as the defense is, Brady is still our best bet to win these games.
 

Oswlek

Veteran Starter w/Big Long Term Deal
Otherwise most of the playoff losses, like the potential AFC matchups this year, we were going into games that we seemingly should win.

Denver in 2005 and Indy in 2006 should be included as well. Only the Jets in 2010 and TGTSNBM stand out as being taken down by a clear underdog. NY in 2011 and Baltimore in 2012 were much closer to NE's talent level than any AFC playoff team this year.
 

lillloyd

Third String But Playing on Special Teams
Lilloyd, are you worried by the Steelers' reliance on Bell, good player though he is? You ought to be, I think.
Do you mean, am I worried that he'll get run into the ground long-term, and become injury-prone? If that's your question, I guess my answer is not really, for a couple of reasons:

-- a pretty healthy percentage of his touches are receptions, and generally speaking I don't think *receiving* touches carry the same weight as actual carries. (On a typical carry between the tackles, an RB may get hit straight on several times; but on a reception the RB is in space and is less likely to take a beating.) I think the comparisons of Bell and Matt Forte are pretty spot on -- you'll notice Bell, for all of his focus, could still finish shy of 300 carries for the year. But like Forte he may be in that 70 - 90 reception range annually.

-- I don't think the current arrangement (Bell with no proven vet behind him) will last longer than this year. Clearly the Steelers brass wanted a reliable vet behind Bell when they went after Blount in FA; it simply didn't work out. I fully expect them to add some experience and talent behind him next year since they already tried this year.

Remember too that Bell is a fairly big back (230 maybe, even after the weight loss) that *can* take a pounding, but rarely needs to because he has good short-area quickness and doesn't take a ton of direct hits.

Having said all that, maybe Bell gets injured the very next game, who knows. But I don't think it will be because of excessive workload this year if he does...sometimes injuries just happen.
 

lillloyd

Third String But Playing on Special Teams
Yup. Both low point totals were on the road and actually had as much to do with the defense as they did on offense. In fact, after struggling for the opening quarter (including a pick six), NE actually moved the ball pretty well despite missing Branch and Dillon.

Only 2011 stands out as evidence that Pitt can slow Tom down, and that was the game when they surprised everyone by actually playing man. Something tells me NE will be more prepared for it this time around.

I've been on record multiple times over the years at patsfans saying that schematically, the Steelers' D is a bad matchup for New England's offense; I don't think that will change whenever the two teams meet next. The 2011 game was an outlier in that we really did play a lot of tight press coverage which is obviously out of character for us...but frankly that game was more about Pitt's offense (and more to the point, the Pat's general trouble that year getting their D off of the field.)

It will be interesting the next time we play--and frankly, I have my doubts that it will be in the playoffs as I don't know that we'll get that far--to see what LeBeau tries to do Out of necessity, our 3-4 ends push the pocket a lot more than in past years, when we had blue chip pass rushers at OLB. I think LeBeau now lets the ends push upfield simply because the rest of the team is too inconsistent applying pressure.

The other thing is, our team is so different that I don't know if I'd necessarily feel any worse about our chances than in past years. Which is to say, even when we had #1 ranked defenses, you could pretty much count on NE hanging a 40-burger on us. With our depleted defense I would pretty much expect the same thing, but at least nowadays we have a chance at least of matching scores, if only for a while.

I guess the saving grace--if you can call it that--for non-Pats fans is that the NFL changes so much from week to week that there's very little that's written in stone. Last year (when both #1s advanced to the SB) was really an anomaly, which to me says that in the modern NFL that there isn't a huge talent/skill divide between the different seeds, so that it really is difficult to simply 'hold serve', even for teams like the Patriots that clearly deserve the top seed. There's always a team or two that seems to rise from obscurity to wreak havoc on the rest of the field, and make things a lot more interesting than they 'should' be :)
 
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