The Patriots Are So Totally Doomed Oh Wait There’s Still A Chance??
Getting into the playoffs is not going to be easy but it’s also not impossible, either.
The doom and gloom surrounding New England is predictable — there’s no longer a sense that a surefire path to the playoffs will surface, thanks to Monday night’s loss (well, asskicking technically) at home against Chicago. The same Chicago Bears routinely mocked for their offensive ineptitude, somehow, in a head-scratching, perplexing, donkey-brained-inducing manner came into Gillette Stadium and churned out 390 total yards of offense and plastered 33 points onto the scoreboard. So, yes, the outlook is not as peachy and rosy or warm and cozy and smelling of pumpkins, cinnamon, or maple the way it was last Sunday following a rout of the Browns in Cleveland.
That feeling is gone, replaced with a mix of unfounded dread, frustration, and anger. Monday night should have been a win — 8 out of 10 times it is. Lacking a starting quarterback, devising a bizarre “they’re both taking snaps and throwing passes” approach should have worked, regardless of its batshit optics. Chicago’s rush defense ranked near rock bottom entering last night and New England’s run game is, typically, a physically imposing force, improving mightily week-by-week since their opening loss in Miami. The Bears offense, through 6 games, was as threatening as a teddy bear — even with below-average quarterbacking for the home side, the game should have been won. No one — including the quarterbacks, sans for the first two Zappe-led drives — held their own, though, and the plan went to shit.
For so many fans and pundits, the season seems to have gone down the drain as well: because it always does when things are not perfect. Someone needs to be blamed. Someone needs to be fired or replaced. The head coach has lost touch with the modern game. They’ve lost 4 of their first 7 games for Christs sake. The season, the radio tells us, is basically over. Some are considering the idea of tanking because surely there is no chance of beating the Jets, Colts, Jets, Vikings, Bills, Cardinals, Raiders, Bengals, Dolphins and Bills. They’ll lose all of those games, obviously, because Matt Patricia is calling plays and Mac Jones has no confidence and Bailey Zappe is too short and the coach has lost touch with the modern game and Kendrick Bourne isn’t getting 15 targets a game and the defense sucks and they need to hire Jerod Mayo to coach the whole team and Steve Belichick is a drooling dunce whose benefitting solely from nepotism (only when they lose though) and the coach has lost touch with the modern and the offensive line is disaster because apparently Trent Brown doesn’t give a shit anymore and did I mention the coach has lost touch with the modern game?
Damn. It’s over. It’s really over just 7 weeks into the season. Good thing I bought that extra-strength rope from True Value and installed a ceiling fan above the toilet!
But before I meet God, maybe I should give it another week or two. Perhaps there is a chance here to turn things around.
Since the beginning of the 2016 season (excluding the NFL’s bizarre 2020 COVID season) there have been 73 teams below .500 through Week 7. Of those 73 teams, only 10 have made the playoffs — an uninspiring 8.6%.
Of course, not all below .500 teams are built the same. Some are winless, some are a blind squirrel that stumbled upon a nut one week when Ka’imi Fairbairn and its defense cooked (Texans country lets ride), some are underachievers with injury trouble (Saints country lets ice) and then some employ Nathaniel Hackett (Broncos country lets coup’ d’état).
When looking at these 73 teams, 27 of them were 3–4. More than half ended their season with records at or above .500 (55.55%) and 8 found themselves in the playoffs (29.6%). From 2016 to 2019, the NFL handed out 12 playoff spots — 6 per conference. Now, there are 14 teams with a chance to hoist the Lombardi Trophy and for one of their players to win a Chevy come February, upping each conference’s qualifiers to 7. Last year, of the 14 playoff teams, 4 saw themselves below .500 through Week 7 (28.6%). Five teams (Carolina, Denver, Indianapolis, Kansas City and New England) sat at 3–4 through 7 weeks in 2021 — 2 made the playoffs (Kansas City and New England). It is not easy by any stretch of the imagination to sneak in. The chances of winning a Super Bowl are nonexistent. Since 2016, no team has made it to a Super Bowl after starting at or worse than 3–4 — three, though, have made it to conference championship games (Tennessee in 2019, Kansas City and San Francisco in 2021). It takes a while for some teams to find their groove, get healthy, bring in new bodies, [insert other slow start/underachieving clichés], etc.
New England has the coaching pedigree (the game hasn’t passed anyone by) and a deep roster capable of turning things around. They’ll choose a quarterback and ride them until either the wheels fall off or one of them peels out of State Farm Stadium in a Silverado.
They’ll be fine. Unless of course they lose Sunday, and then even I’ll stick a fork in them.