When Pittsburgh had home field advantage in the playoffs stolen from them after this Jesse James touchdown was taken away, it felt like a formality: This Patriots team, which is good, but certainly not close to an all-time Top 5 Tom Brady team in New England, is going back to the Super Bowl.
Brady is susceptible on the road in the playoffs – he hasn’t won a road playoff game in over a decade. The Patriots are always at home in the playoffs, but the last five times Brady’s had to go on the road in the postseason, he’s lost four times dating back to January 2006.
But getting lucky to beat the Steelers leaves the AFC with a pretty lame slate of postseason games. Sure, chaos could still happen – maybe the Chargers sneak into the playoffs – but it appears Jacksonville will host Buffalo or Baltimore, and Kansas City will host the Titans on Wild Card weekend. Not exactly exciting games.
Yes, the Chiefs beat the Patriots on the road in the first game of the season. A lot has changed, obviously. What hasn’t changed: Andy Reid is 2-5 in his career against Bill Belichick, with two impressive regular season victories (2014, 2017).
Imagine the Steelers mindset after the Patriots loss. You can’t. Mike Tomlin got conservative in the 4th quarter, allowing the Patriots to sneak back in. There’s no answer for Rob Gronkowski. Antonio Brown is probably out a month. They left everything they had on the field against the Patriots in a game they knew they had to win. It’s difficult to imagine a scenario in which they go to New England and cover, much less win.
Which leaves … Jacksonville? In the postseason, you have to walk before you can run, and these Jaguars haven’t been to the playoffs before. None of their skill position players. Defensively is another story. Calais Campbell went to a Super Bowl as a rookie with the Cardinals. Malik Jackson won a Super Bowl with the Broncos. AJ Bouye was on a Houston team that gave Tom Brady and the Patriots fits in Foxborough last year.