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Sunday NFL Thoughts: Tom Brady sets conference title record; Patriots covered spread; who has the best defense?

What team holds the title of Best Defense in the Postseason?

1. New England Patriots QB Tom Brady has made his 11th AFC Championship Game, the most conference title game appearances by any player in NFL history. Brady has started in 15 seasons (excluding 2000 and 2008), which means that Brady has led the Patriots to the conference title game in 73.3% of his seasons as a starter.

To compare, Minnesota Vikings QB Sam Bradford just set the NFL completion rate record this past year by completing 71.6% of his passes. Tom Brady is more likely to take the Patriots to the conference title game than the most accurate quarterback in NFL history is going to complete a pass.

2. Since 2001, the Patriots have only missed the conference title game in 2002, 2005, 2008, 2009, and 2010. This means that the vast majority of the Patriots roster has reached the Final Four in every year as a member of New England.

The only players on the active roster to experience falling short of the AFC Championship Game are:

QB Tom Brady (02, 05, 09, 10)
K Stephen Gostkowski (08, 09, 10* Gostkowski was hurt in 2010)
ST Matthew Slater (08, 09, 10)
S Patrick Chung (09, 10)
WR Julian Edelman (09, 10)
EDGE Rob Ninkovich (09, 10)
FS Devin McCourty (10)

Every other player has made the AFC Championship Game in every season in a Patriots uniform.

3. A certain Seahawks defensive back seems to think that the Patriots accomplishment has been “easy” for some reason...

...and this mentality is kind of funny. The Patriots went 3-1 against the NFC West this season. The NFC West combined for 23 wins this year, the lowest total of any division in the NFL. The NFC West has the Rams and 49ers, two of the worst franchises in the league.

Oh, and this is a fun fact:

Maybe the road isn’t easy- Brady just makes it look that way.

4. A little self deprecation goes a long way and Saturday’s winner is former Browns/Eagles/Giants linebacker Emmanuel Acho, who was thrilled to watch Patriots RB Dion Lewis score three touchdowns.

The Browns, under Michael Lombardi, traded away Acho to the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for RB Dion Lewis. Acho spent most of his time on the Eagles roster until he moved on and became a sports anchor for the Longhorn Network.

The Patriots are 15-0 when Lewis is active.

5. The New England Patriots were favored by 16-points over the Houston Texans and the Patriots somehow found a way to cover. The Patriots have covered all their double-digit spreads this year, including against the Browns, 49ers, Rams, and the home game against the Jets.

It turns out that the favorite has covered in the past seven playoff games involving a double-digit favorite, including the Patriots-Texans game.

On a similar note, the home team has won every single game thus far in the postseason and the home team has covered the spread every single time. I wonder if we’ll see a combo breaker on Sunday.

6. With the Giants, Seahawks, and Texans all out of the playoffs, are we finally able to label the Patriots The Best Defense in the Playoffs? Of the six teams left, the Patriots rank #1 in:

yards allowed per game; yards allowed per play; rushing yards allowed per play; passing yards allowed per game; passing yards allowed per play; first downs allowed per game; punt return average; kickoff return average; 3rd down percentage; 4th down percentage; points allowed per game; points allowed per drive; plays per points allowed

The Packers beef up their defense with the glamour statistics as the rank in the best at generating interceptions and sacks. The Chiefs force a lot of turnovers and are the best in the red zone. The Steelers are also great in the red zone.

Once the Seahawks were eliminated on Saturday afternoon, the best four defenses in the postseason all belonged in the AFC. I would argue that the Chiefs are the best challenger to the Patriots- and we’ll see how they handle a Steelers offense that scored 43 points against them in week 4.