With three games left in the regular season the New England Patriots are in place to have a clear path to Super Bowl 50 at Levis Stadium in San Francisco. If the season ended now the Pats would have a bye in the 1st round of the play-offs and play every game leading up to the Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium, where they are almost invincible (Philadelphia wasn’t aware of that).
Obviously (so why state it dummy) the games still need to be played, and there is always the unthinkable…the Patriots could lose all the advantages they have worked so hard to accomplish. So, why is there a need for concern?
Is It Possible To Blow It?
Simple answer – yes!
More complex response – maybe. I know, that’s a cop-out, but hear me out. First of all, what would you consider “blowing it?”
Losing home-field advantage
That would be pretty big. The Patriots are more intimidating when playing in Gillette Stadium. Sure, they lost to Philly a few weeks ago, but c’mon, you know that was the ultimate trap game. Everyone, probably including Bill Belichick (he’d never acknowledge it) felt that was a show-up and win game. Hell, I went on the air for “Hump Day” with Murph and Robyn Lynne and, with my infinite knowledge of football, said I could play running back or receiver and they’d still beat the Eagles. We all know how that turned out.
So, one more loss and a season ending Denver sweep over the Steelers, Bengals and Chargers and home field advantage is history. It’ll be hard, but true Patriot fans will actually be rooting for (ugh) the Steelers this week-end.
Losing the bye-week
With all the injuries, having that 1st weekend off seems to be critical to allow a time for healing. This would happen only if the Patriots lost two of their last three. Cincinnati and Denver square off in week 14, so one of them is assured at least one more loss.
Missing the play-offs
Already checked off to-do list.
Not getting to the Super Bowl
The only teams that are a real threat should be Denver (Could we see the last Manning – Brady showdown?) and a red-hot Pittsburgh. If the Pats have the home field advantage over both they should win if healthy. Edelman, Hightower & Gronkowski all playing at close to 100% makes this the team that started the season 12-0. That’s a big if this year, as it seems players are going down every week.
Likelihood: If games are at Gillette Stadium -Small. If on the road -probably around 70%
Not winning the Super Bowl
Health and opponent play a key role in this answer. It’s a game of attrition and lots of good luck, so just getting there again is almost unheard of. It is always the team goal to end the season with a win and the Patriots have been the best team at accomplishing that.
Fans expect nothing less and consider the season a failure if New England doesn’t win another ring…and that’s too bad. This team has fought adversity all season and has accomplished miracles with key players missing multiple games.
As this season got underway I predicted the Patriots would play Green Bay for all the chips and that still could happen. It’s looking more likely the Carolina Panthers will be the probable opponent, but it’s still a long way away.
Likelihood: Flip a coin
There’s no quarterback I’d rather have leading my team in a one game match-up than Tom Brady, but neither Aaron Rodgers nor that young guy from Carolina (Cam Newton if you don’t know) are slouches. With the defenses of New England and Carolina it could be a low scoring affair. With the offense of Green Bay and New England it could be last man to have the ball in a shootout.
No matter what, all you can do is hope for a good, competitive game with the best team coming out on top. My choice – Patriots get Brady his 5th ring and he accepts another Super Bowl MVP Trophy with a smirk from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell!
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