The long national nightmare is over: after an excruciating 24 months, the New England Patriots will finally appear in the NFL playoffs again.
The Patriots officially punched their ticket to the tournament on Sunday. Not only did they blow out the visiting Jacksonville Jaguars with a final score of 50-10, they also got some help from the Tennessee Titans: Tennessee defeated the Miami Dolphins 34-3, guaranteeing that New England cannot lose its spot among the top seven teams in the AFC.
All signs had already pointed in that direction heading into Week 17. The Patriots, after all, entered their game against Jacksonville with a 94 percent chance of eventually making it at one point over the next two weeks, according to FiveThirtyEight.
The Patriots have now qualified for the playoffs in 18 out of 22 seasons since Bill Belichick took over as their head coach in 2000. Before Belichick’s arrival, the organization has appeared in the postseason just nine times total.
For the first time since 1998 they have also made it to the playoffs without Tom Brady as their starting quarterback. New England clinched its playoff berth while being led by first-round rookie Mac Jones.
With a first-round essentially out of reach, the Patriots will play their first playoff game on wild card weekend starting Jan. 15. They will play the Dolphins in their regular season finale next Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.