With the Patriots dropping to the third seed in the AFC, and likely staying put there, let's take a look at the most likely road to the Super bowl the Patriots will have to face.

What's most important for the Patriots is who receives the sixth seed because that will be who they play in the first round. That means that this upcoming match up between the Bengals and Steelers becomes a must watch for Patriots fans.

After the Jets were eliminated from playoff contention last night, that sixth seed becomes a race between both the Bengals and Steelers. Whoever wins the match up this weekend will be that sixth seed and will face the Patriots in the first round of the playoffs.

I think it should be obvious that Patriots fans should be rooting for the Bengals in that game. Everyone knows that the Steelers have had their fair share of issues this year, but let's not get too cute and start saying you'd want to face the Steelers. Pittsburgh figured out a way to stop the Patriots last year and gave them one of their three regular season losses. When it comes down to it, would you rather face Andy Dalton or Ben Roethlisberger? The answer is obvious.

Most likely Pittsburgh will win that game, they will at least be favored. Of course, anything is possible, but let's just say they do.

The Patriots would then have to face Roethlisberger in the first round and if they win, they would move on to face Peyton Manning in Denver for the divisional round. Not an ideal situation.

Should the Patriots get past that test, they would likely travel to Houston for the AFC Championship game. Houston will get the winner of the Baltimore/Indianapolis game provided the Patriots defeat the sixth seed. You would expect Baltimore to win that one. Either way, it's unlikely Baltimore or Indianapolis could beat the Texans in Houston in a playoff game.

That's one hell of a tough road for the Patriots, but certainly not a challenge their incapable of meeting.

Michael Saver 12/18/2012 11:34:00 AM Edit

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