With three Super Bowl titles and five appearances in that game since 2001, and a league-leading record of 147-56 since 2000, it's pretty obvious that the New England Patriots have been the NFL’s best franchise this century.
There are probably a handful of other reasons in addition to the two men listed above, who have led the team in the past decade-plus. But let me offer another reason for the Patriots’ success: The Patriots have been great finishers.
Thursday night's game starts the last five weeks of the 2012 regular season. If you look at the last five games of each season since 2002, the Patriots have compiled a 42-8 record in those 50 games, by far the best record in the league. This .840 winning percentage in the final five games of the season from 2002-11 shows that the Patriots have been a team that finishes the season on a high note.
Following are the number of wins for each NFL team in the last five games of the season over the past 10 years (50 games).
42: New England
32: Green Bay
19: Tampa Bay
16: Cleveland, St. Louis
Here are a few more stats regarding the last five games of the season over the past 10 years:
* Fifteen different teams went 5-0 in the last five games of the season since 2002. As you might expect, the Patriots accomplished this four times (2003, 2007, 2010 and 2011). The other teams: San Diego (2006, 2007, 2009), Miami (2005, 2008), Indianapolis (2008), New Orleans (2011), Philadelphia (2006), Pittsburgh (2004), Tennessee (2002) and Washington (2005). Of these 15 teams that went 5-0, 14 of them made the playoffs that year. The only exception was in 2005 when the Miami Dolphins went 5-0 to end the season but did not make the playoffs.
* Of the 20 teams that have played in the Super Bowl in the last 10 years, three went 5-0 in their last five games, seven went 4-1, seven went 3-2 and three went 2-3.
* The three Super Bowl teams that went 5-0 were the New England Patriots of 2003, 2007 and 2011.
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