At 10-0, the New England Patriots were more or less a lock to win the AFC and play in Super Bowl 50. But after dropping four of their final six games, the injury-ravaged Patriots will have to beat Pittsburgh or Cincinnati in the divisional round and would potentially have to beat the Broncos in Denver in the AFC Championship.
Is this New England squad a legitimate threat in the playoffs, or is this a team with too many injuries and flaws to overcome?
“I think come playoff time, this is the mastery of Bill Belichick,” Ravens radio analyst Qadry Ismail said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “As we’re breaking down Pittsburgh and Cincy, Bill, he already kind of has in his mind a plan of attack (regardless of) who they face. But this is the one thing about injuries. You do feel that, okay, cool, getting Rob Gronkowski (healthy will help). I believe Julian Edelman is getting his groove back as well. The running game, they don’t have (it) and don’t necessarily need it, but if they did have some semblance of a running game, I think that’s where this team gets scary to me and to other teams they would face. You know that they’re going to be strong regardless of the weather. They don’t really care. They can take their game on the road. It is about shutting down from a defensive standpoint what you do best. They absolutely are masters at that, and they say, ‘Okay, if you’re going to beat us, well, okay, you’re going to beat us.’”
The Kansas City Chiefs, for example, have won 10 straight games, and while Jeremy Maclin and Travis Kelce are a nice one-two receiving punch, Kansas City is a methodical team. So if the Patriots were to play Kansas City, Ismail said, they would come out swinging and try to put the Chiefs in a two-touchdown hole, which would alter, if not completely nullify, the Chiefs’ game plan.
“You can just go down the line as far as what the Patriots do well and (how) other teams (can) struggle against the Patriots,” Ismail said. “I have yet to see anybody really have an answer for Rob Gronkowski.”
Still, Ismail, who is picking Carolina in the NFC, does not believe that the Patriots will win the AFC. He believes the Steelers could go on a run and play in Super Bowl 50, but he’s actually taking arguably the most methodical team in the playoffs: the Chiefs.
“Here’s the crazy thing about it,” Ismail said. “I cannot stand Pittsburgh because they’re our rival, but I detest with a passion the Patriots – the most arrogant, pain-in-the-ass fan base known to man. So I’ll go ahead and give the Kansas City Chiefs (some love).”