Ryan Clark doesn’t see the Patriots reaching Super Bowl LVI, and he’s upset about it.
This isn’t because Clark is a New England fan. The NFL defensive back-turned-analyst a while back hailed the Patriots as a legitimate contender to claim the AFC, and he was looking forward to possibly basking in the glory of a correct take.
But Clark saw too many causes for concern during the Patriots’ two-game losing skid, over which span a few other AFC powerhouses upped their games. All told, Clark can’t envision Bill Belichick’s team playing at SoFi Stadium on Feb. 13.
“Listen, this is a team that’s going to be competitive in the playoffs,” Clark said Monday on ESPN’s “First Take.” “This is a team that’s going to play good defense. This is a team that I believe is going to run the ball physically. This isn’t a team that’s going to beat the Kansas City Chiefs. This isn’t a team that’s probably going to beat the Buffalo Bills. This isn’t a team that’s going to beat the Cincinnati Bengals.
“When you look at their quarterback going into yesterday, Mac Jones, in the month of December, had the worst QBR of every quarterback in the league. I think that Mac Jones is a good player. I believe that Mac Jones is going to be a franchise quarterback for the next decade and a half in New England. Mac Jones is going to be a large part of the reason why this team won’t get to the Super Bowl. The run defense is going to be a large part of the reason why this team doesn’t get to the Super Bowl.
“We’ve watched things go down the stretch in late December. We’ve seen some of the deficiencies of the New England Patriots cost them games. Will they be in the football games? Absolutely. Will they be competitive? Absolutely. Will this team get to the Super Bowl? No, they will not.”
Clark probably is right. New England looked terrific over the course of its seven-game win streak, but it beat up on a few bad teams and caught some very fortunate breaks against better clubs. The Patriots were a bit exposed when they finally were matched up against above-average teams that were motivated during the home stretch of the regular season.
New England won’t be an easy out, as Clark notes. But the Patriots probably are ahead of schedule right now, so a potential early playoff exit shouldn’t be viewed as a failure.