Which AFC opponent poses the biggest threat to the Patriots in their quest to return to the Super Bowl?
Derek: I want to be creative here, but I have to go with the vanilla answer and say the Broncos are the Patriots top competition in the AFC. It's a QB-driven league and Cincinnati's Andy Dalton and Houston's Matt Schaub just don't scare me. Joe Flacco certainly made the Patriots pay last season, but his supporting cast appears to have taken a major step back. I can't say the Steelers, Dolphins, or Chiefs with a staight face. That leaves Peyton Manning and the Broncos.
I think the Pats have Denver's number, but maintaining home field could be extremely important come January. Just like last season, I'm nervous about our defense at altitude. It certainly took its toll on the Ravens in the second half on Thursday night. The Pats simply cannot afford to drop games to inferior teams this year. If Peyton's coming to Foxboro in the post-season, then I definitely like our chances.
Raj: To be honest, I believe most, if not every, Patriots fan will tell you the Denver Broncos pose as the biggest threat to the Patriots. However, I'm certain that New England has them figured out. Welker going to Denver makes the Broncos a better team no doubt, but the Broncos haven't beaten the Patriots in a playoff game in 8 years. So while they're a dangerous team, they don't pose the biggest threat. My real worry right now is if the Patriots play the Houston Texans. Yes, the Pats demolished them last season and beat them in the playoffs. However, I really think the Texans will surprise a lot of teams this season. They've already got one of the AFC's best offenses, and their defense got better during the offseason. At home, they're almost impossible to beat, and the Pats have to play them in Houston this season. That only enforces the fact that Houston will be a big threat to New England this year. Still, In Belichick we Trust.