A couple of setbacks probably won’t derail the New England Patriots.
ESPN’s Dan Graziano on Monday tried to ease fears the Patriots would finish the regular season outside of the top-two seeds in the AFC playoff picture by calling them an “overreaction” to New England’s 28-22 loss to the Houston Texans in Week 13. The defeat cost the Patriots’ control of their own destiny in the battle for home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs, causing some to predict the Texans, Kansas City Chiefs and/or Buffalo Bills will overtake them for the No. 2 seed.
Graziano first takes a deep-dive into this doomsday scenario.
“They (Patriots) play Kansas City next week, Graziano writes. “And if they lose that one, that lead will shrink to one game over Kansas City and possibly one over Houston. And in that hypothetical situation, they’d lose head-to-head tiebreakers to the Chiefs, Texans and Ravens.
“Perhaps even more alarmingly, their lead over Buffalo in the AFC East is only one game, and they have to play the Bills again in Week 16. New England is still in the driver’s seat for a first-round bye, but things got a little more precarious Sunday night.”
Here’s why Graziano believes the New England “nightmare” is an “overreaction.”
“That’s a whole bunch of ‘ifs’ right there, and even if they all come in, New England would still have to lose to either the Bengals, the Dolphins or both for the nightmare scenario to come true,” Graziano continues.
“The Patriots looked straight-up terrible on both sides of the ball in Houston, and there is real reason to worry that this won’t turn out to be the kind of dominant January team we’re used to seeing in New England. But the Patriots have shown an ability to beat the bad teams this season, so it’s not wrong to think they’ll win the Cincinnati and Miami games. And they have spent the past two decades earning the benefit of the doubt as a team that can overcome adversity — especially late in the season.”
However, it’s worth remembering Weeks 9 through 14 always were going to be the toughest stretch of the Patriots’ regular-season schedule. Should they maintain their dominance at Gillette Stadium when the Bills come to town in Week 16, and brush aside the Dolphins and Bengals, as expected, the Patriots won’t have to worry about a potential Week 14 loss to the Chiefs undoing all their good work from the first half of the season and making the playoff journey even more daunting.
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