Three things we learned about the Patriots this week.
1. Tom Brady should be NFL MVP
Atlanta's Matt Ryan and Dallas' Dak Prescott have legitimate cases to be heard as well, but with his three-touchdown performance in the the Patriots’ 35-14 win over the Miami Dolphins in the regular season finale on Sunday, Brady pushed his candidacy to another level. Despite missing the first four games of the season (remember that?), Brady finished 2016 with 28 touchdown passes and only two interceptions, giving him the best touchdown-to-interception ratio in NFL history. His 112.2 rating was second to Ryan, who led the league with a 117.1. Prescott was 104.9. Brady’s other numbers aren’t gaudy, the result of missing one-quarter of the season. His 28 touchdown passes ranked seventh among quarterbacks, he ranked 20th with his 3,554 yards passing, fourth behind Kirk Cousins, Ryan, and Drew Bree's with 296 yards per game. But he also led his team to the best record in football, and went 11-1 in the process. “Fourteen-and-two is a good place to be,” Brady said after the win on Sunday. “It’s pretty sweet.” The taste of winning the league’s MVP would be too, particularly in the wake of his Deflategate suspension. Do you like apples, Mr. Goodell?
2. Well, hello, Michael Floyd
Floyd had been something of a major question mark since the Patriots claimed him off waivers from the Arizona Cardinals last month, especially with the wider receiver coming off charges of a second DUI. But Floyd made his presence known during Sunday’s win in Miami, wrestling a tandem of Dolphins receivers to the end zone with an impressive fight for a 14-yard touchdown in the first half, then with his walloping block that helped teammate Julian Edelman complete what was a 77-yard touchdown play in the second half. "He's tough. He's physical. He can be in the room any time I'm here. I like him," Edelman told reporters. Patriot fans learned to like him too in a big way with the presence he displayed in the regular season finale, giving the Patriots another weapon in their quest for a fifth Super Bowl title, and leaving a handful of other teams wondering if they should have bit the bullet and taken a chance on Floyd before Bill Belichick got his hands on him.
3. The AFC Championship game will be in Foxborough
Well, technically, the Patriots need to go through the formality of the divisional round first, but there’s every reason to expect the AFC title game to be played at Gillette Stadium in three weeks time. The Patriots will sit out wild card weekend, of course, and earned home field advantage throughout the playoffs with their win at Miami. The Oakland Raiders lost out on their bid for a bye weekend with a loss to the Denver Broncos, while the Kansas City Chiefs stole the opportunity to take the weekend off with their win over the San Diego Chargers. So, Oakland, the fifth seed, will head to Houston to play the Texans, while the Pittsburgh Steelers will host the sixth-seeded Dolphins. That means one of Oakland (without MVP candidate Derek Carr, lost for the season), Houston, (a team the Patriots beat 27-0 earlier this season), or Miami (small fish, big pond) will be the opponent in the divisional game. Any of those teams scare you? The guess is the Steelers will be here for the bout for Houston.