The New England Patriots went 14-2 this season despite Tom Brady being suspended for the first four games of the season. They also shockingly trading away All-Pro linebacker Jamie Collins and lost superstar TE Rob Gronkowski to a season ending back injury.
Despite all that the Pats still found a way to have their best record since 2010 (and best record in the entire NFL) locked up homefield advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.
In addition to the fantastic season the Pats have had, the rest of the AFC is more down and out than Kid Cudi in '08. The Dolphins and Raiders are both are starting back-up QBs in the playoffs, with the Raiders' Connor Cook making his first career start. The Texans are the Texans.. nobody thinks they're going to do shit. Brock Osweiler lost his job to Tom Savage for Godsake and is only starting because Savage suffered a concussion.
Because of this and the high chance that the Kansas City Chiefs and Pittsburgh Steelers will most likely play each other in the divisional round, thus knocking one out, the Patriots are extremely heavy favorites to win the AFC as the road to Houston seems easier than any potential playoff run in Patriots history given the level of competition.
They're gonna play against either the Raiders, Texans or Dolphins the divisional round. More likely the Raiders or Texans because I just do not see the Matt Moore led Dolphins going into Pittsburgh and winning a playoff game.
I'm really not scared of any of those teams and that is what worries me the most. It's the perfect storm for an all-time upset. The ESPN football power index which uses a million different stats and metrics to predict outcomes said the Patriots have 66% to make the Super Bowl. Not a 66% chance to win their first game. 66% chance to come out of the AFC. Those odds are crazy high. Usually the favorite in a regular year will be somewhere around 20-30%. Truthfully the only team that sort of worries me is Kansas City, they have a good defense and an explosive playmaker in Tyreek Hill but TBH I wouldn't be shocked if they lost to the Steelers at Arrowhead. I know I should be giving the Steelers more respect but Roethlisberger has never beaten the Patriots in a big game. Honestly I'm not really worried about any opponent and that is what scares me. The pressure to just be assumed AFC champs matters. Players and coaches will act like they're not thinking about it but they're humans too, the thoughts definitely cross their minds. If the Patriots do not make the Super Bowl this season given the level of competiton in the AFC make no mistake it will be one of the biggest let downs of the Brady-Belichick era.
Everybody is just ready to write the Patriots in as AFC champs as if they have three byes until the Super Bowl and suddenly upsets don't exist. Yes the Pats are the clear cut favorite and best team in the conference but it's the NFL playoffs. It's one game. Anything can happen. I'll talk to people and they'll just assume we're going to win. Crazy shit happens all the time. That's what makes the playoffs awesome. The Surprise. My man Tim Tebow won a playoff game. The Broncos with a corpse at QB won the Super Bowl last year. In 2011 a 9-7 Giants team went into Green Bay and beat the shit out of a 15-1 Packers squad then won the Super Bowl. Mark Sanchez has won 4 NFL playoff games. I'm just saying anything can happen and how everybody is just totally disregarding a slip up pisses me TF off.
The national media will always say Patriot fans are spoiled because of the longterm sucess they've experienced, which is true, we are. But at the same time it almost takes away the joy of being a fan. Going 14-2 is awesome and should be celebrated but it's just not around here. When you're in the playoffs every single year, usually with a first-round bye, nothing in the regular season will matters. If they pull another 2010 and lose in the divisonal-round the season is a huge disappointment and will ultimately be remembered as a failure. When they win it's more a relief than excitement at this point as anything less than a Super Bowl appearence is a failure and honestly even that is. This season is meaningless without a ring. I do expect the Patriots to be in Houston but I don't think it'll be as easy as everybody thinks, the fact that everybody is ready to put in stone does not make me feel good.