The Patriots are set to enjoy their bye week as the await the identity of their opponent in next week's divisional round playoff game at Gillette Stadium. The Texans, Chargers or Ravens could be coming, but there will be plenty of time to dissect and analyze the opponent once it is learned.
Until then we'll focus on the Patriots, and what they need to do in order to enjoy success in the postseason. When the team has been at its best this season, generally it's meant contributions from a number of areas. But that's true for pretty much any team, so we want to dive a little deeper into the discussion for this week's Samsonite Make Your Case question.
Other than Tom Brady, who obviously has to play well for the Patriots to win, which Patriot is most important to the team's success in the playoffs?
PFW's Andy Hart says …
Rather than come up with an individual player I'm going to go with a position group that has been extremely important to the success (and failure) of the Patriots in the past – the offensive line. Looking back at most of New England's postseason defeats they generally included the team losing the battle up front and watching Tom Brady play under extreme duress.
The offensive line has done a pretty solid job protecting Brady this season, and given his age and sporadic mobility this year it's more important than ever for that to continue in the playoffs. Trent Brown has done a nice job replacing Nate Solder at left tackle and protecting Brady's blindside. The group as a whole has been pretty productive in the ground game as well, and with the passing game not always operating at peak proficiency that could be even more important in January.
They aren't the flashy names and stars from other positions, but Dante Scarnecchia's group of offensive linemen simply has to perform in order for the Patriots to enjoy much postseason success.
PFW's Paul Perillo says …
This was a very difficult choice for me. Edelman has been pretty consistent this season and there's no reason to expect that to change in the playoffs. But that hasn't always translated to success on the field. Sony Michel's production has definitely done just that, however, but I still feel Edelman is more important.
The reason? It's more important to be successful through the air than on the ground. In order for the Patriots to be consistently productive on offense, the passing game will need to be efficient. That means Edelman will need to be turning those quick passes into first downs with his trademark runs after the catch.
Edelman is the team's only consistent receiver and Tom Brady will lean on him heavily to get things done. If Edelman is neutralized in any way, I'm not sure there are enough other options for Brady to turn to in order to put points on the board against playoff teams that will be expected to do the same.
Edelman may not be the traditional No. 1 receiver but he's the most important Patriot in the playoffs.