What more could you ask for from a football season than what the New England Patriots have delivered thus far? This year has been everything and more for a fan and supported of the team and now they prepare to take the step into the playoffs. It's been perfect.
Remember when the Broncos were signing everyone in the Patriots sight back at the start of the off-season? How the signed Demarcus Ware and Emmanuel Sanders and Aqib Talib, while the Patriots were "left" with Brandon LaFell? And then there were the Brandon Browner spottings all around Boston, and then the Darrelle Revis signing? We saw an arms race in the AFC where Bill Belichick and the front office made a statement that they thought this team could win this year.
And then there was the draft, where he Patriots received roughly zero expected rookie starters in the first three rounds, where it was clear that Belichick complemented an off-season for the NOW with a draft for the future. They took the most intriguing defensive tackle prospect at the end of the first round, who will either become a scary player on the defensive line or another injury bust, and then a back-up quarterback.
There was the Logan Mankins trade, the "Tom Brady is pissed" rumors, the locker room conflict, the first four games of the season. There was strife, trouble, and a clear disillusionment surrounding the franchise.
And then there was the rebirth, a scorched earth campaign that rolled through the AFC, clinching homefield advantage for the playoffs with a week to spare. There was the growth of Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower, the integration of Revis and Browner, the acquisitions of Akeem Ayers and Jonathan Casillas. There was Rob Gronkowski's transcendence to football nirvana, the week of Jonas Gray, and just the incredible development of defensive coordintator Matt Patricia.
The Week 17 game against the Bills hold no real consequences; the Bills are out of the playoffs and don't have a first round pick, while the Patriots have the top seed locked down. Still, this signifies a major milestone in the season and you can be certain that Belichick will do what he can to leave a positive mark.
This might be the day for Jimmy Garoppolo to shine. Or maybe Jonas Gray runs back into the foreground. The Bills might be without their top defensive back (Stephon Gilmore) and one of their strongest defensive linemen (Marcell Dareus). The Patriots won't be facing the same defense that was fighting for its football life against the Broncos and Packers.
Instead, this will be the Bills in their heartbreaking finest. Mortgaging the future for this season, only to fall short against the Raiders. They don't have anything to play for and they have nothing to lose. The Patriots are looking to extend their homefield dominance over AFC opponents and it will difficult to justify placing key starters at risk to defend the streak and mythos.
No matter who takes the field for the Patriots, or for however long, this has been a season for the storybooks. The final chapter is still long to come.