Following a bad loss in Tennessee, it’s not looking like the Patriots will get to enjoy the luxuries they usually do in January.
Mike Vrabel and the Tennessee Titans pulled off a shocker at Nissan Stadium on Sunday afternoon. They absolutely stymied Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, handing them a 34-10 defeat, dropping them to 7-3 and snapping their six-six game win streak that stretched back to September.
This defeat marked the second time this season that Bill Belichick has been defeated by a team coached by one of his former assistant coaches/players, having lost to Matt Patricia’s Detroit Lions earlier in the year. For his career, Belichick is only 9-7 in games against former players and assistants, only buoyed by a 5-0 mark against Bill O’Brien.
As for Brady, he completed 21-of-41 attempts, was sacked three times, and didn’t throw a single touchdown. When the Patriots were trying to dig out of a hole in the fourth quarter and get back into the game, they tried to pull off a little trickery with Julian Edelman throwing to Brady on third down. He made the catch and nearly picked up a first down, but his 41-year-old legs gave out on him and he took a little bit of a tumble, failing to reach the marker.
That sums up the kind of day New England had offensively. With that being said, it begs the question … after getting blown out by a team that is essentially treading water right now, are the Pats in trouble?
The answer to that question is, for the most part, yes.
Let’s not forget that the Patriots still play in the AFC East, where the resident starting quarterbacks are currently Matt Barkley, Josh McCown, and Brock Osweiler. They will still win the division with ease, and New England football fans will get their annual playoff game at Gillette Stadium in January, just like they do every year.
But beyond that, nothing else is a guarantee. The Kansas City Chiefs moved to 9-1 on Sunday and, even though the regular season is far from over, look like they will be claiming home-field advantage in the AFC.
Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Steelers have found their stride at 6-2-1 with five straight wins. And to throw another log into the fire, the Houston Texans have won six straight games and are looking like a legitimate threat at 6-3.
When the Patriots fail to claim the top seed in the AFC, things don’t end well. The last time Brady and Belichick won a playoff game away from Foxborough, Rex Grossman was in the process of quarterbacking the Chicago Bears to the Super Bowl in 2006. If New England doesn’t secure home field advantage of any kind in the playoffs, that’s a stat a lot of people are going to circle back to.
However, there’s a giant asterisk attached to that we need to address. On paper, the Patriots are 3-4 in road playoff games in the Tom Brady era. Three of those losses came against Peyton Manning-led teams, losing in 2006, 2013, and 2015. When facing non-Manning teams, the Patriots are 3-1 with an outlying loss against Jake Plummer in 2005.
It’s no secret that the Patriots have relied heavily on owning home-field advantage in the playoffs during the Belichick-Brady era. They’re a much better team at home but aren’t a bad bet on the road so long as a Manning isn’t on the other side of the field. New England is 0-2 against Eli on a neutral field meaning they’re 0-5 away from Foxborough against a Manning.
So even though the Patriots will once again win the AFC East like they always do, and will once again host a playoff game like they always do, times are still changing. For the first time in years, New England’s chances of making it to the Super Bowl don’t seem good.