Coming out of Week 17, things have never looked so good for these Patriots.
Ignore the Swiss Cheese defense, devoid of even a weak secondary.
Ignore the non-factor running game.
Ignore the lack of WR No. 2.
This team is in it for the long haul.
These Pats have lost only three games this season, with the worst defense in the entire league. One of those was a fluke in which Brady threw four interceptions. Disregard it entirely.
The other two games were won by playoff competitors. Both were won by a single touchdown or less, the Pats averaging 24.5 total points given up between the two.
The Steelers game was legitimately lost. Brady and friends were outplayed. The Giants game; however, was lost by a pass interference call on the one-yardline, leaving the NE offense 22 seconds to score a touchdown after New York put seven on the board.
The Steelers possess the best pass defense in the league, while both the Giants and the Steelers have elite passing attacks. They were great teams when the Patriots lost to them, and only the Steelers won by their own hand.
Now, the Steelers have to deal with an injured Roethlisberger, who struggled to average above 5 yards a passing attempt against the awful Cleveland Browns today.
After Roethlisberger, the top-ranked active quarterback in the AFC is rookie Andy Dalton. Seeing as the Bengals have yet to beat a playoff contender, I doubt the Pats will be meeting them in the playoffs.
The Pats are too explosive to lose to anyone but an elite QB. Even the NFL's best rushing attack combined with a strong defense could not hold them under 40 points. In their last seven games, the Patriots have been held to under 30 points once.
Therefore, the Pats will be playing their kryptonite in the Super Bowl, assuming they make it there.
Yet they will not be playing defenses that can stop them, unless by some twist of fate, the 49ers win the NFC Championship. More likely, the Saints or the Packers, the respective 30th and 31st pass defenses in the NFL, will gain that title.
All the same, when Green Bay loses to Kansas City, and the Saints lose to the Rams, I cannot imagine them defeating the Patriots. They don't have that urgency, the X factor that makes them stronger in adversity that Belichick's team has.
When the Pats can score 49 unanswered points in one half, from a 21 point deficit, I don't see them letting someone else win the Super Bowl.
It's not in their DNA.