Just When I Thought the Patriots Were Out, They Pull Me Back In

To paraphrase the great Vin Scully the Patriots are not only alive, they are well. As Dan Fouts said on the broadcast of yesterday’s game, reports of Brady’s (and the Patriots’) demise have been greatly exaggerated. While the 2018 Patriots team is not the steamroller that past teams have been, they still have a chip and chair. Looking around the table, there’s no one here they can’t beat.

That’s not to say the Patriots are the favorites. They’re not:

They’ll find out their divisional round opponent next week, and will host them on Sunday, January 13 at 1:05 PM. The Sunday game is a bit troubling, as the Patriots typically make better playoff runs when they open on a Saturday. Since 2001, the Patriots have always opened the playoffs at home and are 10-0 when opening the playoffs on a Saturday. They are 3-2 when opening the playoffs on a Sunday.

Prior to this season, the Patriots received first-round byes in 12 of their 15 playoff appearances since 2001. They have opened the playoffs at home after a bye week on a Saturday in nine out those 12 playoff runs. The Patriots won all nine of those Saturday night games. With an extra day of rest, they also went on to win the AFC Championship in seven of those nine seasons. The Patriots are just 1-2 in Brady Era AFC Championship games that come after a Sunday victory in the divisional round.

Still, it wouldn’t be shocking to see this team make a run. Would a Chiefs, Chargers or Texans slip up surprise anyone? The Ravens are 6-1 with Lamar Jackson at QB, but does anyone expect the Ravens to make a run with a rookie QB? Are the Colts with Andrew Luck the team to look out for? It’s the Anything Can Happen AFC!

I’d be just as hard pressed to predict who will come out of the NFC, but if forced to make a pick I would pick the Saints. Who ever comes out of the NFC, though, I’d have a hard time picking the Patriots to beat them in the Super Bowl. While it’s technically a neutral-site game and not a road game, I have a hard time seeing the Patriots going into a hostile environment and keeping up with the Saints (or Rams).

Of course I’d rather the Patriots be a 14-2 juggernaut heading into January, but this could still be a fun run to watch. While they’re not underdogs, they’re not the favorite either. With Brady 41 years old and Gronk possibly playing in his last few games as a Patriot, this could be last call for the Patriots Dynasty. If they could cap it off with another championship this year it might be the most impressive one, and most fun to watch.

Yet.

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