For the ninth consecutive season, the New England Patriots clinched a first-round bye in the AFC playoffs, securing the No. 2 seed by virtue of a 38-3 stomping of the New York Jets on Sunday in the regular-season finale at Gillette Stadium.
Bill Belichick’s team will take the week to rest and wait to see whether the No. 3 seed Houston Texans, No. 4 Baltimore Ravens or No. 5 Los Angeles Chargers will be coming to Foxboro on Jan. 13 for the AFC Divisional Round.
While New England is looking to make its way to a third straight Super Bowl, one former Patriot doesn’t think Tom Brady and Co. should be seen as much of a threat in the AFC.
Damien Woody, who played in New England from 1999 to 2003, explained on Monday’s edition of ESPN’s “First Take” why this Patriots team should be looked at differently than past iterations as the playoffs begin.
“Well listen, I’m never going to slight the New England Patriots,” Woody said, “because they’ve, you know, been the preeminent franchise in the National Football League since the Brady-Belichick era. But the one thing I will say about New England — this is not the New England Patriots that we’ve been accustomed to seeing. They haven’t been the greatest team situationally. They’ve been slow.
“When you watch (Rob) Gronkowski, who I’ve always said sets the table for the Patriots in their passing game, he has looked slow and it has trickled down to other players in the passing game. Tom has not been as sharp as he’s been in the past. So I think when opponents face the New England Patriots — and by the way, they are the only undefeated team, they’re the only team that’s posted an undefeated record at home. But I think when teams face the New England Patriots, they don’t feel the same mystique that they’ve normally seen from Patriots teams in the past. And I think they are more vulnerable this year.”
Brady and the Patriots looked as sharp as they have all season in their Week 17 dismantling of the Jets, but the competition will be ramped up in two weeks and New England will need to be at its best when the “real season” begins.
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