Having won five Super Bowls since the turn of the millennium, the New England Patriots are the most successful pro football organization of the 21st century. Naturally, a team like that — a polarizing one due to its success paired with a somewhat secretive approach and unsubstantiated rumors about nefarious infractions — has a target on its back week in and week out. The Patriots have made plenty of enemies along their way to becoming a dynasty.
This, in turn, has led to the creation of an interesting theory: teams play harder when they face the Patriots but drop off after beating them. The latest victims of this appear to be the Tennessee Titans. The team won its week 10 meeting with the Patriots in convincing fashion as Tennessee blew out the defending AFC champions 34-10. One week later, however, the Titans themselves were blown out 38-10 by the Indianapolis Colts.
So, is there any truth to the idea that teams suffer a “Patriots hangover” after defeating them? Let’s take a look at the last 10 regular seasons — those since quarterback Tom Brady returned from a year-long knee injury — to find out. Overall, New England lost 35 regular season games since 2009 which a) illustrates just how successful the team is every single year, and b) gives us a sufficient set of data to work with.
When looking at the games, we can see that 32 teams who beat the Patriots actually played a game the following week. Of those 32, only 15 were defeated one week later while 17 continued winning. When looking at it from this perspective, therefore, a hangover does not seem to exist. But let’s dig a little deeper and add some more context to either confirm or disprove the notion of the aforementioned “Patriots hangover”.
Let’s start by looking for some trends by brining in the games played right before teams face New England. When looking at the numbers, we can see that 21 of 32 ultimately victorious clubs headed in their game with the Patriots with a win the previous week. Of those 21, roughly half — 10 teams — also won the week after beating New England. Again, those numbers only partially seem to support a particular hangover of any kind.
Maybe looking at overall records can help to find out whether or not teams facing New England performed above expectation and crashed back to earth the following week. However, we do not find anything out of the ordinary here either: 19 of the 35 teams to beat the Patriots in the regular season over the last 10 years finished their respective campaigns with a winning record — a number that could still grow if the Titans, Jacksonville Jaguars or Detroit Lions end this year with more wins than losses.
Let’s take a look at another category to look for the potential hangover: scoring. All in all, 24 of the 35 teams scored above their season-long averages when playing the Patriots; 20 gave up fewer points than the norm. When jumping forward to the next week — the potential trap game after defeating New England — we can see that those numbers change a bit: only 13 teams’ offenses scored above their average, while 15 teams’ defenses held the opponents under the average.
On offense, 16 teams experienced this change: their scores went from above average against the Patriots to below average versus their next opponents. All in all, those squads went 5-11 the following week. Defensively, 12 teams saw their scoring go up from below to above the average after winning against New England. Those teams went 6-6 the week after defeating the Patriots.
We can say this: while the scoring averages change somewhat for teams after winning against Bill Belichick’s teams, there does not appear to be a bigger trend that can be seen as a “Patriots hangover”. Some teams — especially those with former Patriots leading them (they went 1-3 the following week) — may invest a bit more into beating New England but more often than not it does not lead to a noteworthy setback one week later.
The “Patriots hangover” appears to be little more than a myth.