Patriots own AFC playoff photo, lead way for Buccaneers Super Bowl rematch
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It didn’t last long. The Patriots missed the AFC playoffs in 2020, but they are already on their way to reclaiming their long-standing status as dominant AFC East champions after a mere one-year hiatus.
With their 14-10 win at Buffalo on Monday night, with a defensive and defensive spirit, the question of whether they will reclaim the division title at Buffalo is no longer the big question – that’s how far the Patriots can. go into this amazing stellar season.
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New England (9-4) lead the conference standings after Week 13, heading for a lucky goodbye late in the season. New NFL Coach of the Year leader Bill Belichick has gone above and beyond with the masterful job he has done this season with rookie first-round Mac Jones as a starting quarterback.
Because of that 7-1 conference record – with their only AFC loss to the Dolphins in Week 1 – the Patriots will still be the No.1 seed coming out of Week 14, even if anyone or everyone from the 8-4 division – top group of the Titans, Ravens or Chiefs wins next Sunday.
The Patriots have a tough game on the road Saturday night against the Colts in Week 15, but end with the Bills at home, Jaguars at home and the Dolphins on the road. Having won seven straight games with an average margin of victory of almost 22 points took them from a 2-4 mess to a familiar Belichickian powerhouse.
The one piece missing from Belichick’s top teams – and there are now so many – is Tom Brady. They always win with solid defense, good running play, ideal situational football sense and the right staff to respond to elite coaches in all three phases of the game. They also did this by protecting Jones at times as as a goalie and calling him to be more of a playmaker to others.
In a 2021 season defined by the collapse of young gun offenses in the AFC – led by Bills Josh Allen and Chiefs Patrick Mahomes – the Patriots do so with more physical football in the game. old which resulted in a more consistent victory. The Titans and Ravens have racked up serious injuries, while the Chargers and Bengals are still learning to win as inexperienced playoff contending teams.
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Considering the quality of the Patriots elite passing defense, no one wants to try to win a game by passing through the elements against Belichick in New England until January during the divisional playoffs. If the Patriots finish at No.1 – pushing the AFC’s Super Bowl 56 path through Foxborough – it’s hard to be confident in winning Allen, Mahomes, Ryan Tannehill or Lamar Jackson. Justin Herbert, like Allen, was thwarted enough by the Patriots’ defense on Halloween, while Joe Burrow would face a tall order in the face of Belichick’s shenanigans for the first time in the playoffs.
Jonathan Taylor and the Colts, coached by former Eagles Super Bowl nemesis Frank Reich, could be a threat. But the Patriots can make sure they aren’t by further reducing that team’s chances of returning to the field in two weeks.
The Patriots have a chance to end the season with four more wins to go 13-4, which would guarantee them the only pass and home field advantage in the AFC playoffs. Considering the Titans, Ravens and Chiefs all have their fair share of tough games ahead, 3-1 could do it for the seed.
MORE: How Bill Belichick Rebuilt The Patriots: Mac Jones, Matt Judon, Hunter Henry Complete Quick List Overhaul
Some would say New England has gone well where every other team has tried to stand out from the AFC crowd. But they’ve also made some big changes with another team in the lead: the Brady’s Buccaneers.
The Patriots are winning big, but their most impressive performance of 2021 may have come in the 19-17 home loss to Tampa Bay in Week 4. This game seemed to instill some confidence that the Patriots could play and beat anyone in the NFL. Consider their only loss since then was the Cowboys, who beat them in overtime in Week 6.
You can bet Belichick motivated his team to work towards a possible rematch with Brady’s in Los Angeles on February 13. The Patriots are crossing the AFC, but are only 2-3 against the NFC. There is no doubt that the NFC is the best conference when it comes to top level competition when collecting the Buccaneers, Cowboys, Cardinals, Packers and Rams.
MORE: NFL Rankings: AFC Update, Photo of NFC Playoffs After Week 13 of 2021 Season
The 2020 Buccaneers may be remembered as starting to look like potential Super Bowl champions as they went through their last four regular season games after a week 13 break. The Patriots are trying to do something similar in 2021 with an extra match on the slate.
The Buccaneers, despite how well the Cardinals and Packers play, remain solid Super Bowl favorites with Brady. The Chiefs emerged with the best odds in the AFC, but the Patriots won quickly over them. The Patriots would love nothing better than ruining a Super Bowl rematch and Belichick getting another shot against Brady with a lot more on the line at the same time.
The Patriots designed their defense to handle explosive passing plays with a strong passing rush, excellent coverage and versatile depth across the board. They want to face teams, forcing them to be happy with the passes. Guess which teams throw the ball more than another? The buccaneers and the chiefs.
Did the Patriots quickly rebuild their squad through aggressive free agency and astute writing with the expectation of overtaking the Bills again? Yes of course. But as Belichick always thinks of the bigger picture (of the playoffs), he was also building a squad to take out a team like Tampa Bay or Kansas City in a battle of attrition. He just needed a competent complementary QB play to complete the plan, and he got it from Jones.
Brady appeared destined in 2020 to retire his seventh New England ring. This one has the impression that everything is heading towards GOAT against GOAT to decide everything.
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