The inspiration for this article comes from the Ashley Fox ESPN article, where she makes bold predictions for the season (or someone created a weird headline). In the article, she predicts New England to win Super Bowl XLVII. An ESPN person predicting New England to win the Super Bowl is so incredibly bold and out there that I was taken aback for a moment and wasn't sure how to respond.
After a little research, I came to a simple conclusion—the Patriots aren't making the Super Bowl this year.
I can understand why people believe New England will make or win the Super Bowl this year. The schedule looks fairly easy. They drafted a lot of bodies to improve their defense. They added Brandon Lloyd as a receiver weapon. Plus, the Patriots have Tom Brady, probably the best QB of this era.
The offense is unstoppable when rolling, and the defense has to be better than last year. On paper, the Patriots looked stacked in an AFC without too many stacked teams. History however, has a very different opinion about the fate of this year's Pats.
Two questions. One, who was the last team to lose the Super Bowl and make the Super Bowl the next year? Two, who was the last team to lose the Super Bowl and win the Super Bowl the next year?
Before I give the answers, I want to address the easy schedule for this year. I'm buying into it a bit, since any year where the AFC gets to play the NFC West feels like a gift. The AFC South isn't easy (minus the London Jags) but it isn't necessarily loaded either.
New England's AFC slotted games are at Baltimore and at home versus Denver. It feels like a schedule where, if New England's offense plays like New England's offense can play, they can roll up double-digit wins easily. Especially in an AFC East with three teams in flux. No one knows how the strength of schedule will turn out.
After all, the Patriots played the NFC East last year, and that division had one winning team. I will save some agony for Pats fans by not naming them at the moment.
Going into last year, the Patriots felt like a team that could be at the end of the line, to where they could still be in the mix but might have lost a few steps (two home first playoff game losses were the reasoning behind that thought). Then the Patriots of old showed up, with an electric offense and bringing back the expectation of winning the title by going 13-3. They make it through the playoffs, to the Super Bowl, and history repeated itself in a strangely similar way.
For the Patriots, or any team in the NFL, something dynamic or magical has to happen to have a chance to win the Super Bowl. More and more, I tend to believe the cards fell perfectly in place last year as their opportunity.
Ryan Fitzpatrick gets hurt, the Jets crumble into a mess, Tebow and the Broncos take out a much more dangerous Steelers team and Lee Evans drops a pass that would have sent the Ravens to the Super Bowl. A lot went right for the Patriots to get where they got, and they didn't win in the end.
The biggest thing that went right for them last year was the schedule. The Patriots record against teams that finished the season above .500 was 1-3. That includes the playoffs. Two losses against the Giants, a loss to Pittsburgh and they beat Baltimore. The rest of the teams were mediocre or terrible. There are zero assurances that an easy schedule on paper will work out anywhere near as well as it did last year.
(Quick addition to this note. I researched the last 30 years of Super Bowl teams. Last year's Patriots and the 99 Rams are the two teams that played only four winning teams during the entire 16 game season and playoffs. The Rams went 3-1 in those games and won the Super Bowl. The Patriots went 1-3. No other Super Bowl team in the last 30 years has beaten one winning team the entire season.)
Another factor this year that didn't happen last year is that one of the other AFC East teams may ride the easy schedule also. Buffalo has been thought by some experts to be a team that could make a move this year.
Speaking of the Bills, they are one of the answers to the question I asked earlier. The last team to lose the Super Bowl and return to the Super Bowl the next year, was the 1993 Buffalo Bills. The last team to lose the Super Bowl and win it the next year, was the 1972 Miami Dolphins.
The history gets worse for the Patriots. The '93 Bills have another distinction that is relevant to the title of the article. The last team to lose the Super Bowl and so much as make the conference championship the next year, were those Bills.
Losing the Super Bowl does have a hangover effect, and the effect historically is ugly.
Since those 93 Bills, 18 teams have lost the Super Bowl and the stats below showcase what they did the following year:
1. Eight of the 18 teams had a losing record the next year. The good news for Patriots fans is that the last four losers had winning records the next year. The bad news is that before the most recent four year stretch, the Super Bowl loser had losing records in the following season six out of seven years.
2. The cumulative total of playoff victories over that 18 year stretch is four. The '96 Steelers, the '97 Patriots, the '06 Seahawks and '09 Cardinals are the only teams with a playoff win, and they all only had one. That would also mean that nine of the last 11 Super Bowl losers, did not win a playoff game the next year.
3. In the 18 year stretch, four teams had 11 or more victories the next year. The cumulative total of their playoff victories, was zero. The Patriots know how that feels since they were one of the four and didn't even make the playoffs.
If an 18 year stretch isn't long enough to show the hangover effect, I went back to the Dolphins of '72. This would be a 39 year stretch of Super Bowl losers. The results aren't much better.
1. The losing records is a more recent trend, started by the 1990 Broncos. The Patriots can hope the trend of the last four years resorts back to the trend from 1973-1987 where the Super Bowl loser made the playoffs every year.
2. Despite making the playoffs for that 15 year stretch, the success of those teams once in the playoffs was pretty bad. During that stretch, only four of the 15 teams that made the playoffs won a game. Only the '74 Vikings and '87 Broncos returned to the Super Bowl. The Bills of the 90s are a curve breaker because in the 39 year stretch, only 11 times has the loser won a playoff game the next year (the Bills went 3 for 4).
3. The Bills are the ultimate curve breaker in the last metric, teams that win 11 or more games the next year. Fifteen of the 39 teams won 11 of more games the following season. The Bills made the Super Bowl the three times they did it. The other 12 teams that won that many games in the regular season, combined for one playoff victory. The 1985 Dolphins are the only other ones. It's almost impossible to believe it's true.
Even if the regular season rolls right, the schedule is easy and the Patriots avoid injuries, the hangover kicks in during the playoffs.
The Patriots look like they can contend for a title again this year, but almost 40 years of history says they might tease it for a while, but they won't be real contenders. The biggest issue facing the Patriots may be that winning a Super Bowl is really difficult. After all, for the last seven years, many experts have picked the Patriots to win it all. For the last seven years, they haven't.
To reach expectations this year, the Patriots will have to do what they couldn't do for a different goal, that evening in Glendale, Arizona. They will have to follow in the footsteps of the '72 Dolphins (according to history as far away from perfection as possible, 10-6 should do). This article may not have proven the Patriots as an afterthought for this year's title. However, it surely was bold.