The New England Patriots find themselves in a familiar position heading into the last week of regular season action. At the top of the standings and controlling their own destiny for a first-round bye, they’re right where you would think they should be to put themselves in position for a deep run in the postseason. But, as recent history has taught us, going into the playoffs as one of the top seeds isn’t the path to success it used to be.
The Patriots have had their share of free playoff wins in the past few years. But instead of being the a springboard to a championship, they’ve been a momentum-killing break in the schedule. In today’s NFL you’re better off being the hot team than being the team with the free win. In fact, the evidence shows that the Patriots might actually be better off resting their starters and losing against the Buffalo Bills this week.
New England has already locked up a division title and a spot in the playoffs. After that, everything else is just gravy. If the idea behind the bye is that it gives a beat-up team like the Patriots a week to get healthy, why couldn’t they use this week to do the same thing? That way they would head into the playoffs as rested as possible while still being able to take advantage of the momentum that a big win in the first week of the playoffs would give them.
Once considered one of the most clutch teams in all of sports, the Patriots are now a team with years and years of playoff failures hanging over their heads. With two Super Bowl losses and an AFC Championship loss under their belts in the last few years, New England is quickly becoming a team of destiny — but not in the good way.
Just getting to Super Bowls and Championship games would be considered a success for most franchises, but not the Patriots. New England must win a championship for any season with Tom Brady under center to be considered a success. If they want to be the team that overachieves for a month and wins the title they need to rest this week and concede the game to the Bills.