For the first time since 2008, the New England Patriots will not be playing in the NFL playoffs. Yes, since 2008. If Pats’ fans thought that last year’s postseason was weird because the Pats weren’t playing in the Super Bowl for the first time in four years, then this year is going to feel completely foreign to them.
The 2008 Patriots failed to make it to the postseason because Tom Brady got knocked out for the year in the first game of the season. However, despite playing the remaining 15 1/2 games with a backup, the team still went 11-5 and just missed making the playoffs. It was hard to feel bad about it and was one of those pesky things we like to call moral victories.
2020 is somewhat different (in general, this is a massive understatement.) Going into the season, with Brady now in Tampa and Cam Newton playing quarterback, the general vibe was one big shrug emoji. No one knew what to expect and truth be told, it was kind of fun. A little chaos after years of certainty was exciting. And for the first couple of weeks, the fun continued.
And then the fun ended.
Things got strange and squirrely. There were ups and there were downs and eventually, it got to a point where the team somehow had a 2 % chance of making the playoffs headed into Sunday’s game against Miami but did anyone really want the team to make the playoffs? Going into Sunday, it felt like the best thing to do was close off this alleged path to the playoffs and start thinking about 2021. It was time to put the 2020 season out of its misery, which is exactly what happened with the Dolphins beating the smoke and mirrors Pats 22-12. There are still two games left this season but they are mostly a formality. It’s all about what lies ahead for the Patriots and their fans now.
Something else that lies ahead for Pats fans is wondering what to do about the upcoming postseason. Who should Pats fans root for now that for the first time in over a decade, they don’t have a dog in the fight? Playoffs are always more interesting when you have a team in the mix and this year, Pats Nation is going to need to adopt one. But who?
Well, as far as I’m concerned, any NFC team is on the table. Different conference, so this is an easy one. For the most part, there isn’t any bad blood or resentment with any NFC teams beyond the Giants or the Eagles, but come on now, rooting for either of those teams in the playoffs is like lighting money on fire.
The Bucs are an easy choice because of Brady and Rob Gronkowski. Although for me personally, while I still love Gronk I continue to hold something of a grudge against him for how he handled things last year when he was going to play, then he wasn’t, then he was, then he maybe he was coming back but then he was actually pitching some product and not coming back and what the hell, now he’s a wrestler? That got old and for him to then quickly jump on board with Brady’s southern excursion felt kind of shitty. So you know, I’m still pro-Gronk but I haven’t forgotten, Gronk. I never forget. It’s in my blood. I hold grudges.
Okay, so the Bucs are an option. The Saints are always fun although Drew Brees looked 80 years old on Sunday and that’s not ideal. The Seahawks are frisky but Russell Wilson was a fantasy football serial killer this year, so that might be hard to overlook. The Rams have cool uniforms but are unreliable and the Cardinals don’t seem to be there just yet. Oh and there’s the Packers. Sure, why not. Just don’t start talking about how it’s a debate as to who is better: Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady. That’s not a debate. It’s Tom effin’ Brady.
In the AFC though, if Pats fans are going to siddle up with an AFC team, there’s some baggage to sort through, which can happen if your team is coming off of a twenty-year run of dominance and has left a trail of bloody and beaten adversaries in their wake. The AFC playoff picture isn’t set in stone yet, but we have a pretty good idea who is in, who is almost in, and who most definitely is not in. We have enough information at our disposal to make a rational, thoughtful decision. Let’s do this.
Kansas City Chiefs
God, the Chiefs feel inevitable. I think the only way they don’t make it and win the Super Bowl is if injury or weather gets in the way. A playoff game in a wild snowstorm could be the only thing standing in the way of the Chiefs and repeating as champs. Although Patrick Mahomes is so damn good, even heavy winds and heavier snow probably couldn’t slow him down.
As a Pats fan, part of it might come down to how protective you are of the Patriots legacy because if the Chiefs win, there’s going to be a lot of talk about them being the next great dynasty and having replaced the Pats as the team to beat. If that’s something you’re not cool with it, that’s a pretty big hurdle. Pats’ fans are naturally defensive when it comes to questioning the team’s greatness, so it goes without saying that the Chiefs’ rise coupled with the Pats’ demise, might be tough to handle.
So, How About the Chiefs? Nah, we’re good.
Old news: the Steelers might go undefeated!
New news: the Steelers kind of suck.
After going 11-0, the Steelers have lost three in a row and the wheels seem to maybe not be completely falling off, but definitely look to be a little shaky. Not great timing and you can’t be feeling all that hot if you’re a Steelers fan.
Well, if Steelers fans can’t feel great about their own team, why would a Pats’ fan want to get involved? Plus, it’s the Steelers, a team that has been annoying from a Pats’ perspective for years. They were on-again, off-again rivals, and the two had some memorable games. But it’d hard for any self-respecting Patriots fan to suddenly support Pittsburgh. It just wouldn’t feel right.
So, How About the Steelers? Hard pass
The Bills are good. I’m not sure how good because it seems like they’re also inconsistent but when they’re good, they’re good. This past weekend versus the Broncos, the Bills were good. They were really good. And they were fun to watch too. This Josh Allen kid is an old school gunslinger and I like it.
Besides being good, the Bills seem to be getting good at the right time. Basically, they’re on an upward trajectory in the same way the Steelers are on a downward one. Buffalo seems ready to throw down in any kind of weather and able to tangle successfully, regardless of the style of the game too. A shoot-out, a rock fest, a fucking weird-ass game – Buffalo looks to be able to handle them all.
The Bills have never been a serious rival of the Pats, more along the lines of a friendly rival. They’re in the same division but there’s not the same level of hatred directed towards them like there is with the Jets. Or even the Dolphins for that matter. It’s the Bills. Some games are tough and some are blowouts. They’ve pulled off a few upsets here and there but during Brady’s Pats’ run, Bills games were rarely nail-biters. The Bills are a team Pats fans can get behind and not feel bad about things.
For now. If all goes well and the Pats get back on track next season, the rivalry could look a little different seeing as how the Bills are on the come-up. But until then, we’re good.
So, How About the Bills? Giddy up
When Tennessee played Buffalo earlier this season, they routed Buffalo, winning 42-16. I’d have to imagine that if they played now, it’d be a different story. Or maybe not. Again, Buffalo can be inconsistent. But so can the Titans. Get them both on their best day though and it’d be like two Tonka trunks ramming the shit out of each other. Some real bloodsport madness. We’d all be winners.
Tennessee is a tough one for Patriots fans though. There’s their coach Mike Vrabel, a Patriots legend and a beloved player. If you’re a real Pats fan, you can’t really root against someone like Vrabel. How could you? Well, you could if you remember how the Titans knocked the Pats out of the playoffs last year and then christened themselves dynasty killers and got a little chesty about beating a Pats team running on fumes. Patriots fans don’t take kindly to people getting chesty when beating their team.
So, How About the Titans? Eh, maybe
I haven’t watched a minute of the Colts this year but the word around the campfire is that they’re not that bad. They’re not that good either but good enough to in the mix for the playoffs. They’re okay but like, okay!. You know, if that makes sense.
All I know is that when I see the Colts I still think of Peyton Manning and I’d be at a loss to not remember all the times he was a thorn in the Patriots’ side. I know the Pats got the best of him a lot, but in the early 2010s, he seemed to have figured them out and the scoreboard started to even out. Manning’s Colts feel like the one constant nemesis during the bulk of Brady’s time with the Patriots and you just can’t forget that.
So, How About the Colts? I would rather not, thank you
Listen, I’m just happy Baker Mayfield is finding some success this year if only because it helps justify all of the commercials he’s in. He’s in so many! And before this year, it didn’t really make sense because he had been pretty bad to just okay up to this point, certainly not good enough to merit all of those endorsements. Now you have to wonder if A) his success this year gets him more endorsements and B) how would that be possible because of how many he already has?
As for the Browns, they’re okay. I kind of like their uniforms, my brother-in-law knows their coach, and their best defensive player, Myles Garrett hasn’t assaulted anyone with his helmet this year, although they do have Kareem Hunt on their team who is only there because of an altercation with a female that led him to be suspended and released by the Chiefs. Nick Chubb is a wrecking ball and my friend Wilson is a big Browns fan, so you know, it’s all okay. And from a Pats perspective, the Browns don’t really mean anything. Like nothing. I think of the Browns and for the most part, I feel nothing.
So, How About the Browns? Uh, I mean, maybe
No. I don’t care for the Dolphins. In a ranking of AFC East teams I don’t like, there’s the Jets clearly at number one, followed by Miami. While I really don’t like the Jets and generally don’t care for their attitude, Miami is more annoying than anything else. The Pats play in Miami and weird shit always happens. So much weird shit and so often that it’s not even cute anymore.
I do like Miami’s coach, Brian Flores, though. So there’s that.
So, How About the Dolphins? Uh…
The Ravens? The Ravens! The effin’ Ravens?
I have a lot of love for Baltimore and have plenty of friends who are Ravens fans. I myself was a Ravens fan when they won the Super Bowl in 2000 because I was living in Baltimore at the time and got caught up in the Ravens hysteria. It was a hoot.
However, over the past decade, the Ravens have been a blood rival of the Patriots and as a result, I kind of hate the Ravens and would rather jump into the Atlantic Ocean today than support the Ravens.
So, How About the Ravens? Hell no!
Other Teams In The Mix
Las Vegas Raiders?
So, What’s the Verdict?
After careful consideration…
My fiancé is a huge Pat’s fan and he said he wants to root for Tampa Bay.
I support that. I kind of am too.