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Top 5 Threats to the Patriots Winning a Super Bowl

The Bulls in the 90’s. The Celtics in the 60’s. UCLA in the 70’s. A similar list will come up in anyone’s head when you ask about the greatest sports dynasty of all-time, but we’re currently in the midst of one that may be the dynasty to end all dynasties; the New England Patriots of the 21st century.

Since New England’s historic upset over St. Louis in Super Bowl XXXVI 16 years ago, the Pats have done nothing but win. Since Tom Brady’s first year at the helm, they’ve failed to win double digit games just once (2002) and won 13 of the last 14 AFC East titles (Miami won in 2008 when Brady missed almost the entire season with a torn ACL). They’ve been to 6 Super Bowls, won 4, and amassed a 196-60 record (76.5%).

So sure, the Pats have a dynasty, but why’s it the greatest ever? UCLA basketball won 88 games in a row under John Wooden. The Celtics won 8 straight championships from 1959-66. The Bulls enjoyed two 3-peats in the 90s, interrupted only by Michael Jordan’s aspirations outside the game. So what sets New England apart? Well, aside from the sheer longevity of their dominance, it has happened in a time and a sport that seems to preach parity among all else. The Patriots lead the NFL with 4 championships this century. A couple teams have two, but the title has been spread out greatly over the course of the last 15 or so years. And this is happening while simultaneously in the NBA we’ve had the same Finals matchup in back to back years, and most experts predict a 3rd Cavs-Warriors matchup. The numbers of New England’s dominance may not show the greatest franchise we’ve ever seen, but a quick eye test does the trick.

So now that that’s established, onto the real issue; will the dynasty extend this year? It certainly won’t be easy, but many people seem confident. Vegas odds currently have New England at +150 odds for the title; next behind them are Dallas and Atlanta at +400. So in all that mess, who are the real threats to New England’s crown this year? I’m glad you asked.

5. Kansas City Chiefs

Threat Meter: 3 out of 10

Why they could beat NE: KC snuck in ahead of Atlanta here, but just barely. I don’t even anticipate the Chiefs making it to the AFC Championship, but if they do, they’ll need Justin Houston, who’s questionable for the Divisional Round but will likely be able to play through a knee injury, to do what he does best; get to the quarterback. In an injury-shortened campaign Houston failed to dominate the way he can when healthy, but his 10-tackle, 3-sack performance in KC’s primetime road win over Denver in November is all the proof I need that he can show up big in big games. New England’s offensive line would be a candidate for Comeback Player of the Year if it were one guy, so Houston would have his work cut out for him in this hypothetical matchup, but it wouldn’t be all on him; against the #1 scoring defense in football, Alex Smith would have to have the game of his life. I’m talking a 4 TD, 350+ yard effort here from the former #1 overall pick. Whether it’s utilizing Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill downfield or Spencer Ware out of the backfield, that offense will need some crooked numbers to keep pace with TB12.

Why they won’t beat NE: First off, as I’ve alluded to, chances are they won’t get a shot. Kansas City will first have to knock off the Pittsburgh Steelers, who are fresh off a 26-6 win over Miami in the Wild Card Round and were actually favorited over the 2nd-seeded Chiefs before injury news about Ben Roethlisburger became public. Big Ben plays through everything, so I don’t see the new foot injury hindering him too much, and the rest of Pittsburgh’s offense is arguably one of the most talented in football. If KC makes it to Foxborough, they’re 18th-ranked passing defense could have fits with Tommy Touchdowns, and Alex Smith’s 16th-ranked passer rating isn’t promising against a strong New England defense.

4. Seattle Seahawks

Threat Meter: 4.5 out of 10

Why they could beat NE: The Seahawks were the last team to beat New England in Week 10 of this year, and they did it in Foxborough. As much as I’d like to come up with a billion excuses for that game, I can’t do it; the Pats played like crap. Play calling was bad, execution was bad, and I was embarrassed to watch it. That being said, Seattle still only won by a touchdown, and the game went down to a last-second goal line stand – again. This time Seattle got the dramatic victory, and they’ll certainly sport a fresh layer of confidence as a result if these two teams meet up in Houston next month. Thomas Rawls is coming off of an incredible Wild Card game against Detroit, racking up 161 yards and springing Seattle to a lopsided win, so Pete Carroll would need to hope to ride that hot hand over the Patriots, as well as counting on his star-studded defense to slow down Brady.

Why they won’t beat NE: This year’s result doesn’t change the fact that the Patriots still own a pretty great deal of real estate right in Pete Carroll’s brain. Sure this year helped and I’m sure if you ask Pete he’ll tell you that Super Bowl 49 is the farthest thing from his mind, but if you tell me he doesn’t at least throw up in his mouth a little every time he has to say the name Malcolm Butler you’re just lying to me and yourself. And aside from the pure mental mind games that Bill Belichick has excelled at for so many years, the Patriots have every tool defensively to shut Seattle down. Malcolm Brown and Alan Branch have solidified the middle of the defensive line and would leave little room for Rawls to breathe, and while the Patriots don’t blitz much (20.8%, 29th in football), a four-man rush is plenty against Seattle’s young, inexperienced offensive line. The Hawks’ defense can give any quarterback fits, but it wouldn’t be enough to stop this train.

3. Pittsburgh Steelers

Threat Meter: 6 out of 10

Why they could beat NE: One word: offense. Not that Pittsburgh’s D is anything to scoff at (10th in the NFL with 20.4 points allowed per game), but it’s no doubt that their bread and butter is the offense; particularly, the Killer B’s. Ben Roethlisburger is one of the most consistent QBs in football, Le’Veon Bell is finally getting recognition as a top NFL back, and Antonio Brown – well, everybody knows about Antonio Brown. This past weekend was the first playoff game that Pittsburgh had all 3 on the field, and the result was impressive but predictable: 200 yards and 2 TDs from Ben, 167 yards and 2 TDs from Bell, 124 yards and 2 TDs from Brown, and a lopsided win. It’ll be interesting to see if Pittsburgh can keep up this offensive pace against Kansas City, especially with Roethlisburger still fighting through a foot injury, but if they can they’ll be a force to be reckoned with in the AFC.

Why they won’t beat NE: The Steelers and Patriots already played once this year, and even though Roethlisburger missed the game with a knee injury, it was pretty indicative of any result between these two teams. Brady threw for 222 yards and 2 TDs, completing passes to 6 different receivers, while Blount had 127 yards and 2 scores. The big factor was the other side of the ball; although the Steelers’ offense is obviously a different unit with Landry Jones at the helm instead of Big Ben, the Pats D held Le’Veon Bell to just 81 yards on 21 carries and no touchdowns. That’d be the big matchup if these teams were to meet with a trip to Houston on the line; can New England’s front unit stop Bell from breaking out big gain after big gain and wearing down the interior of the defense. They’ve proved they can once, and I think they could do it again.

2. Dallas Cowboys

Threat Meter: 7 out of 10

Why they could beat NE: Look, I’m not gonna tell you anything you don’t know at this point about the Dallas Cowboys. When Tony Romo went down in the preseason, it looked like all could be lost in Big D for yet another season. And all the Cowboys have done is go 13-3 with rookies starting at QB and RB, lock up the #1 seed in the NFC, and turn Jason Garrett into a Coach of the Year candidate. Dak Prescott has surprised many, quickly becoming one of the most consistent quarterbacks in football this year despite having been the 8th quarterback off the draft board in 2016. The 7 guys picked ahead of him combined for a record of 10-25 this season, if that’s any indicator on Prescott’s improvement since his Mississippi State days. Ezekiel Elliot turned in a ridiculous rookie campaign (1,631 yards, 15 TDs) that has him as a lock for Offensive ROY and even a candidate for MVP, and he has Dallas’ behemoth offensive line to thank for that. Even Dallas’ defense showed up this year, finishing 5th in football in scoring defense, making this the most complete Cowboys team we’ve seen in probably a few decades.

Why they won’t beat NE: As is the case with the #1 team (below), the only time Dallas will see New England is in the Super Bowl. Under the bright lights, lots of pressure, all eyes on you. Wanna know how many rookie QBs have won the job in camp, kept the job all season, and won the Super Bowl? Zero. Zilch. Nada. And that’s because it’s a daunting and difficult task to undertake. Winning an NFL championship is tough enough, but factor in an inexperienced team and a loudmouth owner that likes to make “guarantees”, and although a Dallas-New England Super Bowl could be exactly what NFL ratings need, it could spell bad news for Dallas. And while the Cowboys didn’t let up a lot of points this season, they were 26th in passing yards allowed, indicating that Brady could move the ball downfield on their secondary seemingly at will. The explosive offense can make it interesting, but when you can’t get a stop it’s tough to win ballgames.

1. Green Bay Packers

Threat Meter: 8 out of 10

Why they could beat NE: Two months ago I would’ve punched myself in the face for even thinking about typing this. But here we are in January, and the Packers haven’t lost since November, and Aaron Rodgers is playing like one of the best QBs of all time yet again. After a very slow start to the season, Rodgers came alive after declaring the Pack would “run the table” after the team’s Week 11 loss in Washington. Since that game, Rodgers is completing 69.5% of his passes to go along with 19 TDs and zero interceptions. Yes, zero picks in 7 games. The rest of the offense, from All-Pro wideout Jordy Nelson to WR-turned-RB Ty Montgomery, have stepped it up as well, and the defense has allowed under 18 points per game during the team’s 7-game win streak. What it all boils down to is that Green Bay is peaking at exactly the right time, and they’re eyeing yet another Super Bowl.

Why they won’t beat NE: Jordy Nelson suffered “at least” 2 fractured ribs in last week’s playoff win over the Giants, and it’s widely believed that barring a miracle he’ll be out this week. Assuming Green Bay advances anyway, Nelson’s health moving forward will certainly be something to keep an eye on. The defense will be as well, because even with their strong play to wrap up the season, Green Bay’s defensive unit still finished 21st in football in scoring. The secondary in particular proved to be a problem, as only the Saints allowed more passing yards this season, and Tommy Touchdowns obviously can feast on any incompetent secondary he comes across. Green Bay could certainly give the Pats a run for their money in this SB51 matchup, but without a strong pass defense and a healthy Jordy Nelson, it’d certainly be an uphill battle.

And there we have it, the 5 teams that represent the biggest roadblocks between the Patriots and yet another championship banner. And notice that Houston is nowhere to be found on this list; they’re already done. I’ve bet the Pats -15 and I’m not looking back. The Texans have been on life support ever since the Monday Night game in 2012 when they strolled in wearing their letterman jackets and lost 42-14, and on Saturday night Bill Belichick is going to pull the plug.

Bottom line: this is an insanely deep and well-rounded Patriots team, and it’s going to take talent, timing, and a shit ton of luck for any of the other 2016 playoff teams to hoist the Lombardi Trophy next month.

Author

  • Youngest member of the RSJ team. Boston sports and not much else. 0 for 2 closing the deal on Tinder dates. Venmo: @SeanKeegan

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