The Patriots lost to the Miami Dolphins today which will bring up questions about their playoff outlook. The Patriots have now lost four of their past six games. This is the first time they have lost four games in a six game stretch since 2002. In other words, this is their worst stretch in the past 13 years. Most fans are brushing this off due to the amount of key injuries on the team. Granted, the injuries have been a major contributing factor to the team’s play recently, but isn’t there more to it than that? The general consensus is that the Patriots will be fine in the playoffs because they’ll likely have Julian Edelman and Sebastian Vollmer back. However, this team has other problems.
In addition to losses to the Broncos and Jets in recent weeks. the Pats also lost to two below average teams in the Eagles and the Dolphins. They beat the Titans who are arguably the worst team in the NFL. The lone impressive win over the past six weeks was against the Texans. The games that the Patriots normally control are now getting out of their control. Three of the four losses were lost in the 4th quarter or overtime. This is normally when the Pats take over and feast on their opponents. The team is not playing well. So, can the Patriots get it all together in the next two weeks and make a run?
OK. Lets’ take a look at the bright side. Despite their ugly finish to the season, the Patriots still earned a first round bye. They’ll probably have Edelman, Vollmer, and Danny Amendola back. That will certainly help although if you’re expecting Edelman to be in mid-season form during his first game back, you may be setting yourself up for disappointment. Overall, the personnel on the field should be better than what they have had the past six weeks. The issue with personnel that they will need to overcome is the offensive line. If they don’t protect Brady, the Patriots will not be back in the Super Bowl. It’s that simple.
They’ll be playing a home game in two weeks against the Bengals, Texans, or Chiefs. Do any of those teams really scare you? The Bengals would probably have the best chance as their overall roster on both sides of the ball is very strong. The Texans? See Sunday Night Game on December 13th. Tom Brady vs. Brian Hoyer. No chance. The Chiefs are the wild card here both literally and figuratively. They don’t really jump out at you as a team to fear. However, any team that wins ten games in a row to end the season is a legitimate threat.
Should the Patriots manage to get past the first round, they then have a potential problem of having to play at Denver should the Broncos also advance. The Patriots at home are about as close to a lock as you can get. However, the reality is that they’re a different team on the road. This made today’s loss a lot bigger than a lot of people are making it out to be. Playing the AFC Title Game at home as opposed to Denver is a huge difference.
All of the AFC Teams in the playoffs have very good defenses with the exception of the Pittsburgh Steelers. When healthy, the Patriots and Steelers are the elite offensive teams of the six. In addition, those two teams have something that the other four do not. They have quarterbacks who are currently playing at an elite level. Brady and Ben Roethlisberger are both capable of leading their teams through the playoffs. They have both done it multiple times. The Broncos and Bengals probably have the most talented rosters, but they don’t have the advantage at quarterback. There is no elite team in the AFC. Any of the six, with the exception of the Texans, has a realistic shot at getting to the Super Bowl.
The reality for the Patriots is that Tom Brady will need to carry them once again. That is normally a very encouraging prospect for the Patriots and their fans. The reality this year is that the season is not on Brady’s shoulders. It’s on the line that needs to protect him. If they can, the Patriots will be the team to beat.