After the bitter sting of the loss to the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship Game, things have started to settle down and get back to normal for the New England Patriots as the team moves their focus to next year.
The good news for the Patriots and their fans is that they should find themselves in the same position next season, with a first-round bye and a chance at another Super Bowl, based off of next season's schedule.
New England should benefit from what looks to be a transitional season for the AFC East.
Who will win the AFC next season?
The other thing the Patriots should benefit from is that the other playoff teams from 2012 face tougher schedules and opponents next season.
Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens might take a step back due to the retirement of Ray Lewis and potentially Ed Reed. Baltimore also has to deal with the playing the NFC North teams as well.
Denver Broncos: Denver should have to deal with a slightly improving AFC West, as well as having to play the NFC East.
Houston Texans: The Texans have to rebound from a poor finish to the 2012 season by facing a much tougher group of opponents while holding off the Indianapolis Colts for the division title. The Texans must deal with playing the NFL's toughest division, the NFC West.
Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck and the Colts figure to improve on last season and push the Texans for the division crown. Like Houston, the Colts are also going to have deal with playing the NFC West.
So while you watch this year's Super Bowl between the San Francisco 49ers and the Ravens, realize the Patriots could be right back in the Super Bowl next season.
Information used from NFL.com