By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
All it took was an explosive first half for Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts to pull away from the Houston Texans for good. Indy is moving on to the divisional round to face the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium, which means the Patriots will face the winner of Sunday's Wild Card contest between the Los Angeles Chargers and Baltimore Ravens next Sunday at 1 p.m. at Gillette Stadium.
Luck went 19-for-32 for 222 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception in an uneven but productive-enough afternoon at NRG Stadium, powering the Colts to a 21-7 win over the Texans that vaults them from the No. 6 seed to a chance to play in the AFC Championship Game. It'll be a tall task for them to go into Arrowhead and beat the No. 1 seeded Chiefs, but if they do, they would give the Patriots an opportunity to host them in the AFC Championship Game.
But for now until next Sunday, the Patriots will focus on preparing for either the Chargers or Ravens now that the Texans are done for the 2018 season. This will be a matchup that comes with baggage. The Patriots have a rich playoff history with both the Chargers and Ravens, especially the latter.
This would be the first playoff matchup between the Chargers and Patriots since the 2007 season, when the Pats won 21-12 in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots famously defeated the Chargers 24-21 in the 2006 AFC Divisional Playoff in San Diego, in what went down as one of the most improbable playoff wins in Patriots franchise history.
Against the Ravens, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are 2-2 in the playoffs since 2009, when Baltimore won the Wild Card game 33-14 in Foxborough. The Patriots beat the Ravens two years later to advance to Super Bowl XLVI, then lost the season after that to the eventual Super Bowl champion Ravens.
Last time the Patriots and Ravens played in the playoffs was the 2014 season, when the Patriots won 35-31. The Pats overcame two different 14-point deficits in the instant classic AFC Divisional Playoff win, which they followed up with two more wins to become Super Bowl XLIX champions.
The only common threads for the Ravens are head coach John Harbaugh and linebacker Terrell Suggs, so it would be hard to gauge how this year's Ravens team would look coming into Foxborough. But if the history is any indication, Baltimore - and L.A., for that matter - would have a good chance to give the Patriots a competitive game in the divisional round.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].