Patriots Fans, Know Your Enemies

Five villains the Patriots may meet in the playoffs.

The Patriots have a bye, but they’ll surely be tuning in to the slate of Wild Card games. All three of New England’s potential opponents—No. 5 Indianapolis, No. 4 Baltimore, or No. 3 Houston—are playing this weekend. Here are five players to watch. Here’s hoping none of them wreaks havoc at Gillette Stadium on Jan. 13.

Bernard Pollard

The Ravens safety first achieved infamy in Boston in 2008, when he was still with Kansas City. On September 7 of that year, Pollard dove helmet first into Tom Brady’s left knee, ending the quarterback’s season. Then, during last year’s AFC Championship Game, Pollard delivered a hit that injured Rob Gronkowski’s ankle. Hell, the man endorses an energy drink called Bully Bling. Yikes.

J.J. Watt

Watt, Houston’s 6-foot-5, 295-pound defensive tackle, is downright terrifying. Just ask Ray Rice. During a Texans-Ravens game earlier this season, Watt looked at the Baltimore running back and said: “I’ve eaten burritos bigger than you.”

Ray Rice

Rice may be small (relatively), but the Ravens running back is just as scary as Watt. Three years ago, in a first-round playoff game against the Patriots, he broke off an 83-yard run. Baltimore went on to win that game, 33-14.

Arian Foster

When the Texans came to town in December, the Patriots did a good job slowing down the speedy running back. That won’t be easy to do again. Also: if the Texans end up playing New England, expect Foster to gear up by eating some lentils. He’s a vegan. Or at least was a vegan. “I’ve been dabbling back and forth,” Foster told the Houston Chronicle in November. “I just like to eat healthy. The whole vegan thing, a lot of people are really interested in my food. … I’ve had meat since I said I don’t eat meat anymore, but I like to stay with the plant-based foods, but every now and then, I’ll eat something.”

Andrew Luck

The last rookie quarterback the Patriots faced in the playoffs was Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger. That was the 2004 AFC Championship Game. Big Ben was awful that day—he threw three interceptions—and New England won, 41-27. On November 18, the Patriots did pick off the Colts rookie QB three times, but there’s no way he’ll be that bad again.