Go ahead, do it.
Sure, their five-year stretch of unparalleled accomplishment in the early- to mid-2000's set their bar higher than any other team, but with Super Bowl championships now a distant memory in today's what-have-you-done-for-me-lately society, it's fair to pose the question: Will the Patriots ever win another Super Bowl in the Bill Belichick era?
It all starts with Brady.
The future Hall of Fame quarterback has experienced a postseason career unlike any other quarterback in NFL history.
Flip his playoff timeline, and a typical good-quarterback narrative arises—early success in January outweighed by struggles and learning experiences. Those experiences then spawn the maturation that ultimately plays an integral role in the winning of multiple Super Bowl championships.
But Brady's postseason career arc is the polar opposite—tremendous accomplishment out of the gate followed by rather lackluster playoff performances, and, oddly, no Super Bowl rings since February of 2005.
What can we make of all that?
Well, to me it shows, that even for Lord Brady—and yes, he's a quarterback lord—past success does not automatically equate to future accomplishment, even though it's human nature to think it does.
However, fortunately for Patriots fans, New England is and will remain among the elite teams in the AFC for the next 3-5 years.
Because, despite his recent, and to some shocking, playoff duds, Brady is still Brady—a surgical signal-caller who'll make it hard for the Pats to not win at least 10 games a year.
Outside of the soon-to-be 37-year-old Peyton Manning, Brady is the clear-cut top quarterback in his conference, and there is absolutely no evidence suggesting he's slowing down, especially in the regular season.
Therefore, New England will get more playoff opportunities, many at home or after a bye week, meaning another shot at the Super Bowl isn't significantly far-fetched.
Belichick is still a coaching mastermind, and his obsession with continually evolving and staying ahead of the rest of the league should keep him viable, particularly as long as Brady is under center.
But without improved play from the defense—no, not just a relatively fluky rash of turnovers—it will be exceedingly difficult for New England to win a Super Bowl.
Well, in all likelihood, the NFC representative over the next 3-5 years—the time left in New England's title window—will boast a sound defense.
With quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Eli Manning, Jay Cutler, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick and even Cam Newton, advancing through the NFC playoffs will be a severe test of defensive strength.
Remember, Brady hasn't been defeated in shootouts during the last seven postseasons.
The Patriots have averaged 20 points in his seven playoff losses and, conversely, the New England defense allowed 15.8 points per game when Brady started 10-0 in the postseason and won three rings.
So, while Brady can carry New England to a Super Bowl, just like when he was a youngster, he'll ultimately need great play from his defense if he and Belichick are to hoist another Vince Lombardi Trophy.