Wed, 20 January 2016
The Patriots: Colossus of the AFC
The New England Patriots beat the Kansas City Chiefs 27-20 to advance to their fifth straight AFC Championship game. Fifth straight! Hearing that got me thinking; how do you define 'dominate?' Does beating your opponent 75% of the time, 153-52 including playoffs, over 15 years show dominance? How about nine AFC championship games in fourteen years; while winning six, plus a tenth appearance this Sunday?
Chew on this for a moment. After Sunday, the Patriots will have played in 10 conference championship games in 15 seasons. Two out of every three AFC championships since '01 have involved the Patriots. That is truly remarkable. We are witnessing an astounding run of success that the AFC has never seen.
The Indianapolis Colts, the Patriots' main AFC competition during the Brady/Bellichick era, have done quite well since '01. Remember all those years of Peyton Manning blowing doors during the regular season then going one-and-done as a #1 or #2 seed. Good times! They've barely missed a beat with Andrew Luck picking up where Peyton left off. But they've only won at a 67% clip in the AFC, including playoffs, going 133-67.
The playoffs numbers are even more disparate. The Patriots are 18-6 against strictly the AFC competition. That number looks familiar, a .750 winning percentage again. No difference, the Patriots win just as often when playing the cream of the AFC, the elite. The Colts, not so much. They wilt significantly come playoff time, going 11-10, a .520 winning percentage.
What about the Steelers? They've been pretty good this century, winning a couple super bowls, fielding a good squad every year, playoff bound most of the time. But they're not in the Patriots' class. The Steelers won 63% of their AFC match-ups from '01-'15, dipping slightly to 61% in the playoffs.
The Ravens perhaps? Nope, not even close. A couple super bowl titles if you count 2000, but they have an up and down regular season pattern over the years and are only one game over .500 once they make the playoffs. The Ravens lack the consistency you see with the Patriots.
This version of the Patriots, the Brady/Bellichick version is the greatest dynasty in AFC history, arguably NFL history as well. The early '90s Buffalo Bills were good, 4 straight AFC championships, Jim Kelly and the K-gun offense, Thurman Thomas, but they didn't last very long. The Steelers of the '70s had a great run; and the Dolphins and Raiders have all had their moments in the sun. However, none of them combine the consistent winning with the longevity as the Patriots have. In the American Football Conference, it's the '01-'15 Patriots and then everyone else.
I am in awe of the Patriots. It is hands down the greatest sports team I have ever had the pleasure of rooting for. I am ashamed to admit that I doubted them coming into the Chiefs game. They limped to end of the regular season, whether by design or not, this team did not look like it had what it takes to win another Super Bowl. Wrong! I was humbled by what they showed us on Saturday. They flipped the switch into playoff mode, just like that – SNAP! And boom, they come out throwing the ball all over the yard, Brady doing Brady things, leaping into the end zone on a qb sneak, firing darts at his BFF Edelman. It was awesome to watch. I almost felt bad for the Chiefs. They are a good football team, well-prepared and talented defensively. Yet they will go down as just another stepping stone on yet another Patriots run to the Lombardi trophy.
The Patriots are the greatest AFC team in history
Enjoy it folks because it can't last forever. As machine-like as they seem at times, Brady and Bellichick are human, they will have to stop at some point. And when they do, the golden days are over. So bask in the glory while it lasts.
* Statistics collected from Pro-football-reference.com
Category:Patriots -- posted at: 12:01am EDT