The New England Patriots finished the 2015 regular season with a 12-4 record, with the No. 2 seed in the playoffs, which ensures they receive a first-round bye.
The Patriots began the season with a 10-0 record, but mounting injuries has exploited gaping holes, and the next man up mantra has not lived up to its billing. The Patriots went only 2-4 during the last six games of the regular season.
The New England Patriots will face the highest remaining seed in the AFC on Jan. 16 at 4:35 p.m. at Gillette Stadium.
The AFC Playoff picture stands as follows:
The No. 4 Houston Texans will host the No. 5 Kansas City Chiefs on Jan. 9, at 4:35 p.m. The No. 3 Cincinnati Bengals will host the heated division rival No. 6 Pittsburgh Steelers for the rubber match on Jan. 9 at 8:15 p.m. If the Bengals defeat the Steelers, they will travel to face the New England Patriots on Jan. 16 in the divisional round at Gillette Stadium. If the Steelers defeat the Bengals, the Patriots will host the winner of the Texans-Chiefs game.
Although the Patriots struggled recently, optimism remains high that the team will make mandatory improvements, increase their sense of urgency, and use the bye week to rest banged up players and prepare for the playoffs. Key starters including receiver Julian Edelman, linebackers Dont’a Hightower, Johnathan Freeny, defensive ends Chandler Jones and Sealver Siliga, safeties Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, cornerback Justin Coleman, and tight ends Scott Chandler and Rob Gronkowski will likely be at full strength after suffering injuries in recent weeks.