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Patriots end wild 2018 on a high note; blow out the Jets to secure a first-round playoff bye

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The year is over, and New England celebrated in style.

New York Jets v New England Patriots Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images

Few years in recent memory were as turbulent for the New England Patriots as 2018. Right from the start, it was a roller coaster. The Patriots reached their seventh straight AFC title game and won in dramatic fashion. They were defeated in a Super Bowl in which they benched starting cornerback Malcolm Butler. They saw retirement rumors surrounding quarterback Tom Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski.

They lost some of their core players in the offseason. They made multiple trades and picked twice in the first round of the draft. They saw Julian Edelman get suspended for four games, multiple wide receivers come and go. They lived through the Josh Gordon experience and saw the emergence of an undrafted rookie cornerback (sounds familiar?). And through it all, the Patriots stayed on course and won yet another AFC East title — their tenth in a row.

Yesterday, the team put the finishing touches on its regular season and 2018 as a whole. It did so in impressive fashion: New England played arguably its most complete game of the season and blew out the visiting New York Jets 38-3. While, yes, the Jets had nothing to play for and will draft in the top three next year, the Patriots still took care of business by being explosive on offense, stifling on defense, and efficient in the kicking game.

“I thought we played hard. We had a good week and were able to finish the game on a positive note,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said after the game. The victory did not only give his team an 11-5 record on the season, it also secured New England the second overall playoff seed in the AFC and a first-round bye. Despite starting the year inconsistently on both sides of the ball, the Patriots are therefore again in familiar territory.

“11-5 is nothing to be sad about,” added quarterback Tom Brady, who played one of his best games of the year on Sunday and finished with 250 passing yards and four touchdowns. “I mean, we fought pretty hard and put ourselves in a decent position here, and now we’ve got to go try to take advantage of it. [...] Glad we were able to score the points we did. We’re going to need more of that in a couple weeks.”

Blowing out the Jets the way the Patriots did — with total domination in all three phases from start to finish — now generates some much-needed momentum for the team heading into the postseason. And while the regular season and 2018 as a whole started as a constant up and down full of rumor and speculation, New England ended it in familiar fashion: as one of the top teams in the NFL and with a first-round playoff bye under its belt.

Even though this year may have felt different than the last few did in terms of uncertainty about the dynasty’s future, it certainly was not: the Patriots are still a force to be reckoned with — and one that has put itself in a decent position for another run at the Vince Lombardi Trophy. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Welcome to the Pats Pulpit Live Postgame show! The Patriots finished the regular season strong and cruised to a win over the Jets today, clinching a first round playoff bye in the process. Send us your questions and comments!

Posted by Pats Pulpit: For New England Patriots News on Sunday, December 30, 2018