This is not the best Patriots team of the Bill Belichick – Tom Brady era.
Far from it, actually.
You could easily make the case that this is the weakest Pats team since 2009, when they had guys like Brandon Meriweather, Leigh Bodden, Shawn Springs and Kyle Arrington playing key roles on defense. Rob Gronkowski was still bumming around at the University of Arizona then, and Tom Brady was still working his way back to elite status after suffering that ACL tear in 2008. That 2009 group was quickly bounced from the playoffs, blown out in the wild card round by Baltimore at Gillette Stadium.
This current Patriots team has some major issues – no Julian Edelman, a secondary that was destroyed by Jay Cutler less than a month ago, a front seven that could very well be the worst in the NFL, and a QB in Brady who hasn’t thrown for over 300 yards in a game since before Thanksgiving.
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The difference this year for the Pats, though, is the field. Absolutely no one in the AFC scares you.
At least last year, there was some doubt that the Patriots could lose at home to the Steelers having not played them in the playoffs in quite some time. Today, it’s clear that the Pats still have Pittsburgh’s number.
The NFC is also less intimidating than it was a year ago. Last year, Pats fans shivered at the thought of Aaron Rodgers and the MVP-version of Matt Ryan meeting their so-so defense in the Super Bowl. This year, if the Pats again land in the Super Bowl, they’ll likely face Nick Foles (Eagles), Case Keenum (Vikings) or second year QB Jared Goff (Rams). Not exactly like staring down a Peyton Manning or Eli Manning or Kurt Warner in the playoffs.
The Pats have the best odds in the 12-team field to win it all, once again. The Pats are a 2-1 favorite, followed by the Vikings (4-1), Steelers (9-2), Saints (5-1), Rams (12-1) and Eagles (15-1).
Sounds about right.
The first victim
The Patriots will play the Chiefs, Titans or Bills on Saturday, Jan. 13 at Gillette.
While the conventional wisdom says that the Pats don’t want to see Alex Smith and the Chiefs that night given what they did to the Pats way back on Sept. 7 (a stunning 42-27 Chiefs win), it’s good to remember that the Pats almost always get revenge whenever they’ve been humiliated.
Hell, the Chiefs are the best example of this as they blasted the Pats on a Monday night in 2014 season, and then were dismissed rather easily by the Pats in the 2015 divisional round.
Aside from a 30-13 home win over the Chargers on Dec. 16, the Chiefs have played like hot garbage since Halloween. Belichick will surely steal from what the Cowboys, Giants, Bills and Jets did against KC during the Chiefs’ four-game losing streak and will mirror it in the divisional round if it is indeed the Chiefs who land in Foxboro 10 days from now.
As for the Titans or Bills winning in Foxboro in the playoffs? Please.
Tennessee is incapable of putting up 30 or more points in a game against a top team, and the Bills have already faced the Pats twice this season (both Patriots victories). Belichick is historically great when he sees a team the second time around – never mind when he gets a look at them three times in the span of a month and a half.