Bill Belichick will have his team in the playoffs by season's end. He has a history of it.
The New England Patriots have a record under .500 for the first time in 145 consecutive games, but there is still no reason to think Bill Belichick won’t lead his team to the playoffs.
Their streak of consistency, the longest in NFL history, has been undermined following two-straight losses to the Arizona Cardinals and Baltimore Ravens. But did you watch those games?
The Pats lost in Week 2 on a botched 27-yard field goal by the most accurate kicker in the history of the organization. Their Week 3 loss came during one of the most controversially officiated games of the season—that is, until Monday night’s debacle in Seattle.
By Week 16, Belichick and company will prove that a losing record means nothing this early in the season. After all, he has a track record for it.
If for no other reason, Belichick's track record should indicate that the Patriots playoff odds are in their favor.
Looking back to Belichick’s initial season as head coach of the Pats, the prolific coach does done nothing but win.
In his first season at the helm, Belichick’s squad dropped the first two games of the season before Tom Brady stepped under center for an injured Drew Bledsoe. Together, they managed a 5-5 record through the first 10 games of the season, before rattling off nine-straight wins to capture a Super Bowl win.
New England’s winning streak continued into 2002 with three wins to begin the season before eventually falling to 5-5 after a loss in Week 11. The Patriots still managed a winning record at 9-7.
The Pats opening day blowout in 2003—a 31-0 drudging against Bledsoe, Lawyer Milloy and the Buffalo Bills—marked the last time New England had a losing record.
For those of you doing the math, that is approximately nine years. A decade. The lifespan of a sixth-grade student. You get the point.
Two more Super Bowl rings later and the second-ever undefeated season in the long history of the NFL in 2007 and you’re looking at, not only the greatest team of the century, but a case for the best franchise in league history.
This is all made possible by Belichick.
Between trading Richard Seymour in 2009, cutting Randy Moss in 2010 and sitting Wes Welker in the 2011 playoffs, Belichick has a track record of breaking ties with players who break rank. There are countless more examples of this.
Think of Belichick as an army general, except his code of ethics might be ordered something like owner, coach and teammates, as opposed to God, self and country.
He’s Colonel Nathan R. Jesep, without the pompous attitude, bombast and stars & stripes.
He’s like Darth Vader with a hoody, not a helmet. So, more like Darth Sidious.
He’s not going to complain about the officiating at a press conference, even though a penalty on tight end Rob Gronkowski arguably cost his team a win over the Cards in Week 2 and there were a combined 24 penalties for 249 yards on Monday, in a game Jackie MacMullen will forever deem Flag Day.
This has everything to do with reaching the playoffs because it speaks to an attitude cultivated by Belichick in each player he fields that allows for no excuses to be made. The Patriots don’t have a losing record due to poor officiating and his players will have that ingrained in their heads for the rest of the season, if they don’t already.
In a weak AFC East division, the Patriots are certain to be atop by Week 16.
Who is going to compete with the Patriots for tops in the AFC East?
No team coming to mind?
Let’s review the other three teams in the division.
New York Jets: Pummeled the Buffalo Bills on opening day, before losing on the road to a tough opponent in the Pittsburgh Steelers. Then, it took overtime and—you guessed it—a controversial call to upend the Miami Dolphins on the road in a game a true contender would have won handily. In fact, it took a missed 48-yard try by the Fins and a Joe Philbin failed icing attempt on Nick Folk’s first attempt to ensure the victory. The Jets will be without the services of, by far, their best player at any position in Darrelle Revis. And they have two of the worst quarterbacks in the league under center.
Buffalo Bills: Two wins. One loss. You’ve got to be kidding me. How the Bills managed to break off back-to-back wins is beyond me. Wait… something doesn’t add up. I see! They played Kansas City and Cleveland in Weeks 2 and 3. And who knows how CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson will bounce back from their respective injuries in the coming weeks. Without a steadfast running game, that means more passing for Ryan Fitzpatrick and that is never a good thing in any month other than September.
Miami Dolphins: They’ve got heart, I’ll give them that. But Miami is not going to be near the top of the AFC East by season’s end. With a rookie quarterback, a new coach and an injury-prone running back in Reggie Bush, the Dolphins are heading for a disaster.
Imagine the Pats somehow lose two games to these AFC East opponents. Then, for the sake of argument, they lose three more games to the current NFL elite in Seattle, Houston and San Fransisco. That puts New England at 9-7 which, in this division, should be enough to win.