While the Patriots were issued a wake-up call in Week 9, it sure looks like New England is in store for yet another deep playoff run.
The reigning Super Bowl champions currently sit at 8-1 and are in line to grab the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs. It certainly won’t be a cakewalk for New England to reach football’s biggest stage for the fourth consecutive season, but it’s currently tough to pick against Tom Brady and Co. to win the conference title.
Sports Illustrated’s Andrew Brandt likes New England’s chances of maintaining AFC supremacy, but he doesn’t see the Patriots hoisting the Lombardi Trophy in February.
“I am going to hold off on recency bias, as my Super Bowl teams just lost, yet admittedly retain my Packer bias,” Brandt wrote. “Despite Green Bay‘s dud of a game in Los Angeles on Sunday, I see them as the best team in the NFC having won games with defense, without their best receiver, with the NFL’s most improved player (Aaron Jones) and the league’s best quarterback. The Patriots are, well, the Patriots, although they feasted on a weaker schedule in the first half of the season. I think the AFC has only three playoff-caliber teams—Patriots, Chiefs, Ravens—while the NFC has seven: these six plus the Rams. Teams on the rise in the season’s second half include the Eagles, Vikings and Chargers. Teams on the decline: Cowboys (common, they lost to the Jets), Colts and 49ers (slightly). And in February, the football Gods will give us Brady and Rodgers, where the Packers will prevail on yet another “omg” play from Rodgers. And yes, as to personal bias: guilty.”
Brandt might be letting his admitted Packers bias fog his judgment a little too much. There’s no doubt Green Bay would present a great challenge for New England, but Rodgers and Co. have to reach Super Sunday first. And considering the way the rest of the NFC’s top teams have been playing, that will be far from an easy task.