The New England Patriots have been down this road before — steamrolling through the regular season, just to find themselves watching the first week of the NFL playoffs. The problem? That hasn’t been the path to a championship in recent years. If they want to find themselves hoisting the Lombardi Trophy next month they will need to avoid what has held the back for the better part of a decade — the inability to regain their momentum after sleepwalking into the playoffs.
New England has seen each of its last few seasons ended by a team riding a wave of momentum. More than anything, momentum can be the difference between winning and losing this time of year. In fact, I’ve been saying for a month now that the Patriots would be better off losing games in the regular season so they could be forced to play this weekend.
Having the bye week to get themselves healthy is a good thing, but it can be a momentum-killer as well. Football is such a unique sport because no matter how much you try you can’t prepare for the intensity of a team that has been fighting for its life all season long. Even though the Patriots haven’t been as dominant as usual this season, they still haven’t faced many opponents who truly made them work for their wins.
They’ll certainly face that kind of team at some point after this bye week, and if they don’t avoid the emotional letdown that a week off can bring they will find themselves again losing to a team that brings more intensity in the playoffs.