In the Patriots’ unprecedented 16-year run of tyranny over the NFL, there were boogeymen (or boogey-teams, rather) that always posed considerable threats to the Pats winning it all.
People thought it was going to be impossible to beat the “Greatest Show on Turf” St. Louis Rams in 2001, people continued to believe Peyton Manning and the Colts could slay the Pats throughout the 2000s, the Ravens posed a considerable threat to the throne at the beginning of this decade, and the Broncos’ defense was strong enough to take down the Pats in two AFC title games in the past five years. In 2014, no matter how much dominance the Pats showed in the AFC that season – there was always the threat of having to meet the Legion of Boom and the Seahawks (then the defending champs) in the Super Bowl. Two years ago in the NFC, the Carolina Panthers rode a 15-1 record into the playoffs, and last year the Packers - with a healthy Aaron Rodgers - and Atlanta - with MVP Matt Ryan – both looked mighty scary.
Each December the past few years, the following was a common thought around here: “The Pats should win the AFC. I dunno if they can beat TEAM X from the NFC. Those guys look pretty damn good … But it’s the Super Bowl, so anything can happen.”
This season though, there is no boogey-team in the NFC. The previously one-loss Eagles had their shine removed Sunday night by the Seahawks, and even if Philly makes it to the Big Game, does a second-year QB and a second-year head coach really scare you against Bill Friggin’ Belichick?
All of the other NFC contenders shouldn’t have Pats fans shaking in their boots, either.
The Vikings? Case Keenum is a nice story, but he still wakes up each morning and his name is “Case Keenum.”
The Rams? Their 30-year-old head coach is young enough to be Belichick’s grandson (assuming Belichick was sexually active during his college days at Wesleyan).
The Saints? In Week 2 the Pats defense was a complete mess but they still found a way to slam the Saints in New Orleans, 36-20.
The Seahawks? Brady against a Seattle defense with no Kam Chancellor and no Richard Sherman? Sign me up.
The Panthers? Yeah, this would be a challenge as they’ve already beaten the Pats (in Foxboro, no less) this year. But Carolina is currently the six seed in the NFC and it would take some run to get back to the Super Bowl.
In the AFC? You already know where things stand. It’s the Patriots, and it’s the Steelers. That’s it.
And even if Pittsburgh was to beat the Pats at Heinz Field on Dec. 17, you’ve gotta believe that Las Vegas would make the Pats the favorite if they met a month later in the AFC title game.
Brady and the Patriots own Heinz Field in January, and when the Steelers have to come to Foxboro for a big game? No chance.
Now, we know that the NFL wants no part of yet another Patriots Super Bowl win. We are currently in the worst PR year in the league’s history (which is saying something) and the league’s popularity is declining. Having the Patriots in the Super Bowl again and having them win the Super Bowl again would be the dingleberry on top of the poop sundae that is the 2017 NFL season. The Pats winning would be a boring, “same old, same old” result for a boring, “same old, same old” season on the field.
So maybe Roger Goodell will devise some sort of plan to have the refs screw the Patriots in the playoffs (ala that memorable Sunday night game in Denver two years ago).
But unless something crazy like that goes down, the rest of America will have to deal with their never-ending football nightmare again this February – the Patriots as Super Bowl champs.