This should’ve been written years ago. Instead, I referenced it only last week. At least somebody did, since it won’t be exposed by a football media littered with ex-Patriots. Assistant sports editor Matt Wiley broke it down, in further detail, leading into Sunday’s AFC championship game.
The Patriots are done. No, the Patriots have been done, at least in terms of being a championship contender.
The Patriots are still elite like the Lakers are still elite. The mismatch you saw Sunday at Sports Authority Field wasn’t the beginning of their end. It was a continuation of their end.
Don’t be fooled by their appearance in another AFC championship game. This is more telling than that: Over the past three seasons, a stretch in which the AFC East has featured no other playoff teams, New England went 15-3 within the division. They won three division titles. They hosted playoff games.
Their NFL rankings, in team defense, over that stretch? No. 31 (2011), No. 25 (2012) and No. 26 (2013).
Does that strike the impression of an elite outfit? It strikes me as a team with the great Tom Brady at quarterback (above, from Sunday).
Sorry, not buying the injury alibi. The Broncos’ defense is as beaten up and beaten down as the Patriots’ defense. Brady, and the middling AFC East, are why the Patriots continue to play into January. The Patriots are good, a worthy playoff team, but they aren’t on the top tier anymore.
In another lopsided mismatch of an AFC championship game, this much was apparent:
The Patriots aren’t what they were, not even close, despite the east-coast narrative building them up.