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2020 Patriots Power Rankings - Wild Card Weekend

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Check out what the experts say about the Patriots heading into Wild Card Weekend

Miami Dolphins Vs. New England Patriots At Gillette Stadium Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

It’s one thing to say Patriots fans are spoiled. It’s another thing all together when the team gets spoiled right out of their playoff bye week after losing to the Dolphins last Sunday. Think we can all agree it was pretty bad. And while this year’s team hasn’t been one of the strongest or most balanced, I thought the players possessed that mental-toughness quality that could carry them through the rough spots. I’ll admit I’m having my doubts they can pull off a ninth-straight trip to the AFC championship round, but first thing’s first: Beating a very good Titans team in Foxborough on Saturday. It’s been a while since the Patriots have had to prepare for a playoff game with no bye week, but it’s not a death knell — just a tougher road to hoe. I’ll be rooting hard as usual, and we’ll see about that mental toughness. New England is favored by 4.5, but all I care about is a win.

GO PATS!

Saturday Schedule:

Buffalo Bills at Houston Texans (4:35 pm)

Tennessee Titans at New England Patriots (8:15 pm)

Sunday Schedule:

Minnesota Vikings at New Orleans Saints (1:05 pm)

Seattle Seahawks at Philadelphia Eagles (4:20 pm)

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6th - Lindsay Jones (The Athletic): We were stubbornly reluctant to drop the Patriots in our rankings for much of the season, but after losing at home to the Dolphins in Week 17, and falling to the No. 3 seed in the AFC, the Patriots end the regular season outside of our top five. It’s wild to consider that the Patriots have had a playoff bye for the previous nine years, and next week they’ll play on wild-card weekend for the first time since the 2009 postseason.

6th - Consensus (Bleacher Report): The New England Patriots of the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick era are arguably the greatest dynasty in the history of professional sports. But during all that success, they have never won the Super Bowl during a year in which the team played on wild-card weekend.

After choking at home against the Dolphins in Week 17, the Pats will have to re-write that history if the team is going to win a record seventh Lombardi trophy. ”Choking” might sound harsh, but there’s really no other way to describe it. This was a Dolphins team the Patriots smoked 43-0 in Miami during Week 2. The Patriots were playing for a week off, while all the Dolphins were playing for was pride. And Miami flat-out outplayed the defending champions.

”I keep telling myself you just cannot count out the Patriots in the playoffs,” Davenport said. “But New England’s offense is hit-or-miss, and the defense just got gashed at home by the Dolphins. The Pats will win at home next week, but this team is just too flawed to beat Kansas City or Baltimore on the road.”

Gagnon echoed those sentiments. ”I’ll never count out the Patriots,” he said. “But I’m not even sure they’ll beat the Titans. This team just doesn’t seem to have it, and even that remarkable defense can be lightly exposed with a death-by-a-thousand-cuts approach.”

6th - Pete Prisco (CBS Sports): Losing to the Dolphins has them playing this week. That’s not the norm, and one has to wonder if they can play through it.

6th - NFL Nation (ESPN): Most notable 2010s event: Malcolm Butler’s Super Bowl-saving INT, Feb. 1, 2015. The Patriots hadn’t won a Super Bowl since the 2004 season -- it had been a full decade -- when it appeared they were going to lose in heartbreaking fashion to the Seahawks. There were 26 seconds remaining, the ball was on the Patriots’ 1, and Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson threw a pass that was intercepted by Butler in one of the most clutch plays in Super Bowl history. So instead of losing the Super Bowl like they had in 2007 and 2011, they brought a fourth Lombardi Trophy back to New England.

6th - Russell S. Baxter (Fansided): Recap: The AFC East champions looked to complete their first sweep of the rival Dolphins since 2016 and also lock up the No. 2 seed in the conference. But the Patriots found themselves down early as a Miami field goal and a Tom Brady interception returned for a touchdown saw Bill Belichick’s club down 10-0 in the second quarter. And it was the New England defense that wound up having a rough outings as they allowed Miami to gain 389 total yards while failing to force a turnover. The Patriots’ secondary – in particular cornerback Stephon Gilmore – had a rough time with Dolphins’ wideout DeVante Parker. And New England allowed a 75-yard TD drive late in a stunning loss.

Postseason Preview: With all of the issues surrounding the team this season, it’s worth noting that the Patriots have a better record this season (12-4) than they did a year ago (11-5) when they went onto win Super Bowl LIII. The defending Super Bowl champions will host Mike Vrabel’s Tennessee Titans on Saturday at 8:15 p.m. ET.

Offseason Priorities: The speculation regarding the football future of Tom Brady – slated for free agency – is somewhat bewildering. As for some of the bigger names on the club’s potential UFA list, there’s linebacker Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins, special teams ace Matthew Slater, wideout Phillip Dorsett and safety Devin McCourty.

6th - Dan Hanzus (NFL.com): A stunner at Foxborough. Ryan Fitzpatrick’s touchdown pass in the final minute was a devastating dagger to the Patriots’ hopes of securing a postseason bye for the 10th consecutive year. The Dolphins hung around all afternoon, and New England’s vaunted defense couldn’t keep Miami out of the end zone with the game on the line, allowing Fitzmagic to march the Fins 75 yards on 13 plays in the final four minutes for the game-winning score. For the first time since the 2009 playoffs, the Patriots will have to earn their way to the Divisional Round with a win on Wild Card Weekend. And they’ll have to do it against the Titans, one of the NFL’s hottest teams. Is this all a recipe for imminent doom for the greatest dynasty in NFL history? Will it even be a huge upset if Tennessee wins on Saturday night at Gillette? The Patriots are vulnerable -- it’s been that way for weeks.

6th - Peter Botte (NY Post): The Pats never have reached the Super Bowl in a year they were required to play on the first weekend of the playoffs. Saturday night’s game against Ryan Tannehill and wild-card Tennessee will represent New England’s first appearance without a postseason bye since 2009. A middling No. 15 offensive ranking suggests this finally might be the beginning of the end for 42-year-old Tom Brady and the six-time champs, but Bill Belichick’s big-play defense still led the NFL in yards allowed (275.9), points allowed (14.0) and takeaways (36) per game.

6th - Pat Yasinskas (TouchdownWire): It’s not often that the Patriots lose a game with big playoff implications. Yet that’s what happened Sunday as Miami upset New England in Foxborough. That cost the Patriots the AFC’s No. 2 seed and a first-round bye. Instead, they’re the No. 3 seed and must play in the wild-card round for the first time since 2009. New England fans have been nitpicky this year because the Patriots haven’t been as sharp offensively as in past years. Maybe the Miami game shows that fans are right to have doubts. The Patriots have to be far better in the postseason if they’re going to repeat as Super Bowl champions. But as long as Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are around, anything remains possible.

7th - Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News): The Patriots seemingly have been written off for the playoffs, and once again, everyone is ready to go with the lazy narrative that this is the end of their dynasty. But those rumblings existed in last year’s playoffs, too, all the way through their dispatching of the high-scoring Rams in Super Bowl 53. Until the clock runs out and they’re eliminated, you can’t count them out. With that said, their offensive limitations and defensive struggles against better teams aren’t an appealing combination in survive-and-advance mode. One shouldn’t be surprised, however, if they suddenly make the right adjustments again to outwit tougher competition.

7th - MMQB Staff (SI): Every year we talk about the end of the Patriots dynasty. This year they went long stretches where they didn’t look very Patriots-like and they still put up 12 wins.

7th - Nate Davis (USA Today): If they’re to secure seventh Lombardi, they have to go through Titans, Chiefs and probably Ravens to reach Super Bowl. You taking that bet?

7th - Frank Schwab (Yahoo! Sports): It was impossible to see that Dolphins loss coming. Even if the Patriots have slipped, they still shouldn’t lose to Miami at home. And if they can lose to the Dolphins at home, it’s possible they can lose to the Titans at home.

8th - Tom E. Curran (NBC Sports Boston): Finished the season by losing two of their final three home games and went 4-4 over the second half. Lost to all three division winners in the AFC. They were fortunate to play the worst NFC division in 2019, the NFC East. So strapped offensively and undressed in the season finale against Miami a week after appearing to awaken against the Bills. The Titans could be a problem.

12th - Dan Parzych (NFLspinzone): Remember all of that concern surrounding the New England Patriots over the last few months, and whether the defending champions had what it takes to make another run at the Super Bowl? After appearing to make a statement in Week 16 by handing the Buffalo Bills a loss, the Patriots were in the perfect position to secure a first-round bye on Sunday since all they needed to do was defeat the Miami Dolphins at home.

With the way both teams compared on the season, New England couldn’t have asked for a better matchup to close out the regular season before preparing for another potential Super Bowl run. Instead, the Patriots just couldn’t figure out a way to get anything consistent going against the Dolphins and finished on the losing end to drop from having a first-round bye to the No. 3 seed with a matchup schedule against the Tennessee Titans. All of a sudden, New England now needs to play on Wild Card Weekend and could be in serious trouble of repeating if the struggles continue like the last few months.

The Patriots have been in this position before where they struggle at times before kicking things into high gear for the postseason when it matters the most, but this time seems different.

AVERAGE RANK: 6.9