Before I start my article, I want to make something clear to you. I’m maybe the biggest Patriots fan you’ll ever meet. I went to my first game in 1993, when I was 9 years old. My 16th birthday gift, in 2000, was a season ticket, and I’ve been to almost every home game since. When I was in college, my dad would pick me up from Worcester on Friday night and drive me back on Sunday night so that I could go to the games. So, question my loyalty all you want, and call me a fake fan. That’s fine. I’m not here for clickbait, and I’m not going to hide my feelings, I promised myself I’d always be honest here, and that’s what I’m doing.
The first obvious question is: Why would I pick the Patriots to lose? There are a few reasons, but the biggest one for me is that they are playing on the road. They haven’t won a road playoff game since 2006. Granted, they’ve only played three road playoff games since that win, but they haven’t won any of them. Tom Brady is simply a different quarterback on the road in the playoffs, and his numbers show that.
In 23 home playoff games, his record is 20-3, he completes his passes at a rate of 64%, which is his exact career completion percentage. He also has 46 touchdowns and only 18 interceptions. In seven road playoff games, on the other hand, his record is 3-4. He has completed his passes at a rate of only 57%, and he has eight scores and eight picks. He also left his first road playoff game (a win in Pittsburgh) with an injury right before the half. The Patriots were up 7-3 and driving when he was injured, but he didn’t win that game, Drew Bledsoe did.
Do these stats mean that Brady is incapable of playing well on the road? Of course not. He’s the greatest quarterback of all time, he can play well anywhere. In fact, three of his four losses have been in Denver, a place where Brady and the Patriots have historically struggled. Another place where Brady has struggled in the past, granted in a much smaller sample size, in Kansas City: he is 1-2 all time at Arrowhead Stadium.
The last time the Patriots played there, the dynasty was falling apart and people were calling for Jimmy Garoppolo to start over Brady. That’s not even his worst performance in Kansas City, though. In 2005, he threw four interceptions in a 26-16 November loss. Clearly that game in 2014 was a wake up call for that team, and it went on to win the Super Bowl, but the game still happened, and it’s the last memory we have of the Patriots playing at Arrowhead.
The last reason I have is very simple. They had an opportunity to have this game at home, and they blew it. You usually don’t get away with making mistakes like that. For instance, just a few years ago, in 2015, the Patriots had to beat the Jets or Dolphins in the last two weeks of the season to get the number one seed over the Broncos. They got pushed to overtime by the Jets, won the coin toss, and elected to kick off to New York, who promptly scored a touchdown to win the game.
Then they decided to run Steven Jackson what felt like 47 times for 13 yards (editor’s note: it was actually 14 for 35) against the Dolphins, and they lost that game too. Because of those two losses, they had to go into Denver, and they were sent packing. One of the main reasons for the loss was the defense starting jumping the silent count that they had to use because of the crowd noise. If that game was played in Foxboro, they make, and probably win, another Super Bowl.
So here we are again in the same spot. The Patriots didn’t show up in Jacksonville, then they didn’t show up in Detroit, then they beat the Chiefs to earn the tiebreaker for first place, only to not show up against Tennessee a few weeks later. The final two nails in the coffin were the fiasco in Miami and Pittsburgh desperately trying to let the Patriots win, only to have the Patriots want to lose even more. Win one of those games, and this game is played in Foxboro. Shoot, put a defensive back, instead of Rob Gronkowski, as the deep man in Miami, and this game is in Foxboro.
The Football Gods don’t look too kindly on missed opportunities, and I think this is one that will cost them a trip to another Super Bowl. That being said, there are two very big glimmers of hope (possibly big enough to be rays of sunshine) for New England.
The first is that the team that showed up last week against the Chargers is a different one than the one we’ve seen pretty much all year. Brady was downright surgical, Julian Edelman was amazing, and the defense, before some garbage time points, was lockdown. The question is: can the Patriots repeat that this week? If anyone can, it’s the Patriots, but it will be difficult to do on the road.
The second glimmer for me is that right the Patriots are “The Team That No One Believes In.” They’re not fabricating it either. They are underdogs this week, and they are embracing that role, and using all of the hate for motivation. The Team That No One Believes In is tough to knock out of the playoffs, especially when it possesses as much talent as the Patriots. These two things were almost enough to sway me, but I’m sticking to my guns. Plus, if they really are feeding off the hate, then maybe this article will help.
So I just told you why I think the Patriots will lose, but there’s one more thing I want you to know. I hope I’m dead wrong. I want to be wrong so bad it hurts. I’m hoping Fred Segal cold takes me, and that my mentions are a dumpster fire on twitter. Because, in the end, I couldn’t care less whether I’m right, I just want the Patriots to win. But, as I said, I promised myself to always be honest, so I’m being honest and telling you I think they’re going to lose this week.
Here’s hoping I’m wrong and after this week the Patriots will be onto Atlanta instead of onto the offseason.
Pat is the host of The Patriot Nation Podcast
Interact with him on Twitter @plane_pats