New England Patriots fans have every right not to feel overly optimistic about the team at the moment. It had lost two straight to drop to 7-8 on the year, it’s offense continues to be stuck in the mud, and the playoff hopes depend on an improbable sweep of the Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills over the final two weeks of the regular season.
And yet, something interesting happened this week. Despite the Patriots losing a second straight game in heartbreaking fashion — they came up five yards short of possibly completing a comeback from 22-0 down against the Cincinnati Bengals — fan confidence actually improved.
As a look at the latest SB Nation Reacts numbers shows, 11 percent of participants in this week’s survey said that they were feeling good about the state of the team. For comparison, that number was a mere 4 percent a week ago — the lowest number since SB Nation started tracking fan confidence all the way back in 2018
What is the reason for the seven-point increase? Obviously, the motives for voting “Yay” instead of “Nay” vary from fan to fan but it appears there are two driving factors behind that development:
1.) The Patriots showed some signs of life on both offense and defense in the second half against Cincinnati. Despite the eventual 22-18 loss, they had the reigning AFC champions on the brink of defeat.
2.) They still control their own destiny in the wild card race. If New England wins out, as noted above, it is in the playoffs regardless of what happens elsewhere in the conference.
Let’s be real for a moment, though. While the graph did go up for the first time since Week 13, a whooping 89 percent are still not feeling good about where the team is headed. That number is the third highest across the NFL, topped only by the Tennessee Titans’ 90 percent disapproval rate and the Arizona Cardinals’ 97.
Of course, none of it will matter if the team earns a victory this Sunday against Miami to set up a showdown with Buffalo in Week 18.
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