Sometimes it pays to be lucky.
The New England Patriots will play the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC Championship Game on Sunday after beating the Tennessee Titans in the divisional round. And that combination of the Titans and Jaguars is the easiest path to the Super Bowl in modern NFL history, according to FiveThirtyEight.
FiveThirtyEight broke down the Patriots’ road to the Super Bowl, and it discovered that based on the strength of opponents the Patriots have faced, it would be much more shocking if they did not make the Super Bowl.
The website used its Elo rating to measure the strength of teams at any given time. FiveThirtyEight noted that thanks to a weak AFC, along with the Titans’ upset of the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Wild Card Round and the Jaguars’ win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, New England did not face the second and third best teams in its conference on the way to Super Bowl LII.
The 2004 Philadelphia Eagles previously had the easiest route by facing the Minnesota Viking and Atlanta Falcons that season.
The Elo ratings actually pegged Tennessee and Jacksonville as fairly close in strength, which makes sense given that the Titans beat the Jaguars twice this season.
In fact, the Titans’ matchup with the Patriots was the third-most lopsided divisional matchup since 1990, according to FiveThirtyEight. Only New England’s win over the Denver Broncos in 2011 and the Arizona Cardinals-Vikings showdown in 1998 ranked as bigger mismatches.
While all this makes sense, the Patriots still have proven to once again be the class of the NFL and appear to be on a mission to hoist the sixth Lombardi Trophy.
And let’s not forget, they still have to beat the Jaguars on Sunday.