3 Reasons the New England Patriots Won't Repeat as AFC Champions

Chris Trapasso@ChrisTrapassoAnalyst INovember 19, 2012

Nov 18, 2012; Foxboro, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) congratulates running back Stevan Ridley (22) after a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Indianapolis Colts at Gillette Stadium.  The New England Patriots won 59-24.  Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-US PRESSWIRE

The New England Patriots have won six of their last seven, including four straight. They have a stellar offense and a porous but opportunistic secondary. Essentially, they look a lot like last year's team that advanced to the Super Bowl. 

I'm here to tell you why they won't repeat as AFC champions this January.

Yeah, betting against the Patriots is never easy, and many will call me crazy, but check out these three reasons why they'll fall short of this season's Super Bowl. 

The turnovers won't continue

Last year, according to Football Outsiders, the Patriots finished the regular season second in interceptions per drive and third in total turnovers forced per drive—quite the feat for a defense as criticized and vulnerable as New England's was. 

Remember, no defense allowed more yards per drive than the Patriots last year. 

This season, heading into Week 10's contest with the Indianapolis Colts, Bill Belichick's club was seventh in interceptions per drive, first in fumbles forced and cumulatively second in turnovers forced per drive. 

Now, some of the amazing turnover numbers can be attributed to good coaching, complex schemes and simply opportunistic players, but by and large, turnovers—especially fumbles—are more random than anything else. 

Conversely, they've done a miraculous job holding onto the football. Tom Brady has thrown the fewest interceptions per drive, and the Pats as a team have committed the fewest turnovers per drive. 

That's another staple of a good team, and in this case, an elite quarterback. But can we, or should we, really expect these polarized turnover figures to continue for the remainder of the regular season, and, when they'll be most important, in the postseason?

I can't. 

Too many good offenses in the AFC

Sure, the Patriots already dispatched Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. They were a few plays away from beating the Baltimore Ravens, but the Patriots secondary is really bad. 

Yeah, I know—New England advanced to the Super Bowl after allowing the second-most passing yards per game in 2011. 

Could they accomplish a similar feat this time around? 

Anything's possible. 

But are we supposed to bank on the fact that lightning will strike twice?

I'm not.  

Not with Peyton Manning and a balanced Houston Texans offense in the conference.

They might not have home-field advantage

Currently, the Patriots are the No. 3 seed in the AFC playoff standings, a game in the loss column behind the 8-2 Baltimore Ravens and two games behind the 9-1 Houston Texans. 

While there's plenty of football left to play, if the Pats can't unseat either of those two teams, or if the Denver Broncos finish with a better record, New England will likely host a first-round playoff game, then have to go on the road—a rare occurrence. 

The last time the Patriots played a postseason road game was January 21, 2007, when they lost to the Indianapolis Colts—the eventual Super Bowl champion. Their last road playoff win came the week before in San Diego against the Chargers

This is not to say that New England is incapable of winning on the road in the playoffs. 

It's just to say that, although it's not a distinct advantage, the home team has fared better ever since that last Patriots road playoff win, compiling a 29-21 record.


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