The New England Patriots have not played a wild card game in what amounts to an eternity in the NFL: they were able to earn nine straight first-round byes between the 2010 and 2018 seasons. This year is different, however, as the Patriots enter the playoffs as the number three seed in the AFC despite winning 12 games during the regular season — losing the Week 17 game against the Miami Dolphins sealed the deal for the reigning champions.
Therefore, New England will have to go up against a Tennessee Titans team on Saturday that entered the playoffs as the conference’s number six seed. But despite winning three fewer games during the regular season, the game between the Titans and Patriots projects to be a highly contested affair — and one that is essentially viewed as a must-see if the results of SB Nation’s latest FanPulse survey are to be believed.
Regardless of team affiliation, participating fans were asked which game they are most looking forward to this weekend. And the AFC matchup between New England and Tennessee received the most votes ahead of its NFC equivalent:
- Tennessee Titans (AFC-6) at New England Patriots (AFC-3): 34%
- Minnesota Vikings (NFC-6) at New Orleans Saints (NFC-3): 31%
- Seattle Seahawks (NFC-5) at Philadelphia Eagles (NFC-4): 21%
- Buffalo Bills (AFC-5) at Houston Texans (AFC-4): 14%
It is not hard to see why people have a keen interest in the matchup between the third and sixth seed in the AFC: the Patriots have dominated the NFL for the last two decades and are one of the most popular teams in all of football. They also appear to be more vulnerable this season than in years past, however, with the offense in particular struggling to get into a consistent rhythm during much of the regular season. This is a key point here.
While a loss on Saturday would not necessarily signal the end of the two-decade long dynasty, there are a lot of people around the nation that want a first-row seat to see Tom Brady and company stumble. Will such a thing happen this week? That remains to be seen, but there is still a great interest in the game: either the Patriots reassert their role as a serious Super Bowl contender by eliminating a hot Titans team, or they get kicked from the playoff tournament themselves and into an offseason full of potential turnover.
If you too are interested in participating in our FanPulse survey, please click here!