On Wednesday, NFL Network aired two documentaries about the Super Bowl-winning New England Patriots. One of the recurring themes in both America’s Game and Do Your Job was the team’s ability to use being doubted at various times over the course of the 2018 season as motivation to fuel another run towards a championship. Judged by that, it appears that the Patriots’ title defense is already off to a good start.
Look no further than The Ringer, which recently released its 2019 season predictions. While the six writers asked to look ahead all picked New England to win the AFC East for an eleventh straight year, they were reluctant to go with the Patriots to advance much further than that. In fact, nobody on the panel believes that the team will win the conference and make a trip to the Super Bowl for a fourth year in a row.
Instead, they all ride the hype produced by the Kansas City Chiefs, a team that fell just short last year when it lost 37-31 to the Patriots in overtime of the AFC Championship Game. Of course, the Chiefs will be in the mix yet again this season: they added talent on both sides of the ball and might have an even deeper roster than last year’s. On top of it all, struggling defensive coordinator Bob Sutton was replaced by Steve Spagnuolo.
That being said, the Chiefs are not the only team to improve on paper this offseason. While the Patriots lost stalwarts like Rob Gronkowski, Trent Brown and Trey Flowers, they added considerable depth across the board and might just have the best roster in the AFC from top to bottom — if not in all of football. However, the Patriots don’t have the same hype that was mentioned above. People, after all, have grown accustomed to seeing them be good.
This is also the reason why neither quarterback Tom Brady nor head coach Bill Belichick are predicted as candidates to win the league’s individual awards (MVP and offensive player of the year; coach of the year). Both would need to produce historic seasons to capture the awards this year, being ‘the best’ is just not good enough considering the accomplishments the two already have on their legendary and Hall of Fame-worthy résumés.
When it comes to the Patriots, people often measure differently as their past success warps expectations: New England is expected to be good year-in and year-out. As a result, Ringer’s Rodger Sherman might sum up the feelings about the club best: “[T]he fourth season I’ve been asked to make these predictions, and the fourth season I’ve picked somebody besides the Patriots — not because I believe it will happen, but because I want it to.”
Then again, counting out the Patriots — whatever the motivations might be — has never proven itself to be a good idea.