If the playoffs started today, the five other teams fighting with the Patriots in the AFC would be the Chiefs, Broncos, Bengals, Colts, and Jets. How would you rank those teams in terms in terms of their threat to bounce the Patriots from the post-season?
Jason: The Broncos and Colts pose serious threats. Solving Manning is going to be a chore, and Luck has proven to be a real playmaker in just his second season. The other three teams don't scare anybody. Kansas City is an above-average team that has gotten by against below-average competition. The Bengals just lost their best defender. The Jets are the Jets, and should by all rights be around 3-6. They'll finish below the Texans.
Raj: In terms of the most threatening, I gotta give it to the Chiefs. Not because they're 9-0, but because the Patriots won't play them unless it's the playoffs. But even then, KC is so unpredicatable every week. It'll be scary. After that, Pats fans will hate me but I give it to the Jets. No matter how bad they do in the season, because of the Pats-Jets rivalry, NY will always play its best football against NE. Sometimes, that's worked out for them. Very rarely will you see the Pats blowout the Jets…except for that buttfumble game (but only because I was there!!). From there I would say the Broncos for obvious reasons, the Colts because their offense is a bit predictable, and finally the Bengals (they're showing some rust in certain areas that the Pats can take advantage of).
Rick: In my mind, the Patriots are the 3rd best team in the AFC. I think they can beat the Bengals with Geno Atkins now out for the season as their best defensive players. The Colts haven't proven they can be the Goliath in games they are supposed to win and the Jets are too inconsistent to trust as surprisingly good they have become. Kansas City is better because they do two things: They don't turn the ball over and they force turnovers. I'm not sure if the Patriots' offense can put up points a plenty against that defense. As for Denver, Peyton Manning still has a lot of weapons to get the ball to. Knowshon Moreno could be that player that Manning relies on in the cold weather in January to get the job done. Right now, the Chiefs and Broncos are just a touch better than the Patriots at this point.
Derek: Looking at the recipe that teams have used to bounce the Patriots from the playoffs since their loss in Super Bowl XLII, the biggest threat to the Patriots is going to be the team with a dominant defensive line that can get to Brady and make him uncomfortable all day. Looking at the other AFC playoff contenders, it looks like the Chiefs and Jets may pose the biggest threat from that standpoint. I would have also put Cincinnati in that category and probably at the top of the list if not for their recent run of injuries. As far as Indy and Denver are concerned, they look formidable on paper with Manning and Luck at QB, but the Patriots and Aqib Talib were able to handle Drew Brees and neither of these teams has a defense as good as the Saints. I think both teams may actually be a good matchup for the Pats. To wrap things up, I'll give the Chiefs the nod as they have the defense to slow down Brady and Alex Smith is careful with the ball and may not cough up a turnover to the Patriots' opportunistic defense.