The Patriots will most certainly be among a small group of teams to beat in the AFC, with the Texans, Ravens and Broncos all well on their way to division titles also. So, which of these teams poses the biggest threat to the Patriots chances of returning to the Super Bowl?
We take a look at that very topic in this week's Samsonite Make Your Case.
PFW's Andy Hart says...
The Texans are the most balanced team in the conference and therefore pose the biggest threat to the Patriots and everybody else. On offense they are capable winning in a variety of ways. They can grind it out on the ground with Arian Foster or they can take to the air with Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson. They've shown the ability to score into the high-30s when needed and have done so while coming from behind as well. On defense few teams can apply the type of pressure that Houston can with J.J. Watt, and the Texans rarely allow themselves to get caught up in shootouts as a result. Last season the Texans were on their way to making a long playoff run when Schaub was lost for the season and third-stringer T.J. Yates replaced him. Now they're ready to take another step.
PFW's Paul Perillo says ...
Houston is a formidable opponent and one to be taken seriously for sure, but come playoff time I believe experience is important and the Texans have very little. Conversely, Denver has Peyton Manning and he's been through the rigors of the postseason many times. He's also put the failures of his early days in Indy behind, as he proved against the Patriots back in 2006. Manning has seen it all and won't melt under the pressure of playing the Patriots — or anyone else. In order to beat New England you have to be able to match it point for point. Manning can do that because he can throw the ball, and that's always a problem for the Patriots defense. The Broncos are coming together after a very difficult schedule early, and they will be the most dangerous threat come January.
Now it's the fans turn to cast their vote for this week's Samsonite Make Your Case poll question.
Click here to cast your vote on a mobile device.