Patriots facing rare playoff obstacle they've never had to deal with in Bill Belichick's 22 years as coach
Fri, Jan 14, 2022
NFL News (AP)
Since hiring Bill Belichick in 2000, the New England Patriots have played in a total of 41 playoff games under their 69-year-old coach, and in that span, they've faced many challenges. However, there is one thing that Patriots have never had to deal with under Belichick and that's being a road team in a wild-card game.
Over the past 21 years, the Patriots have played in the wild-card round a total of four times, but they were never an actual wild-card team. In each of those four instances, the Patriots went into the playoffs as a division winner that had to play in the wild-card round.
The fact that the Patriots will be hitting the road in the wild-card round this week is notable, because if there are two playoff situations where the Patriots seem to struggle, it's when they play on the road and when they play in the wild-card round. This year's playoff opener combines both of those things.
Belichick has been the Patriots coach for more than two decades and in that time, the team has only played eight road playoff games and they've gone 4-4 in those game. Since 2005, the Patriots are 2-4 in road playoff games with their most recent loss coming to the Titans in the wild-card round following the 2019 season.
Speaking of the wild-card round, the Patriots have only played four wild-card games ever under Belichick and they've gone 2-2 in those games. However, if you look at more recent history, the Patriots are 0-2 in the wild-card round over the past 15 years. Besides the 20-13 loss to Tennessee, the Patriots also had a 33-14 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in January 2010.
Before this year, the last time the Patriots played on the road in the wild-card round came in January 1999 when Pete Carroll was the coach (The Patriots lost that game 25-10 to the Jaguars).
If the Patriots are going to advance out of the wild-card round this year, they're going to have to pull off an upset against a Bills team that's favored by 4.5 points against them. Belichick is actually 3-1 in his career as a playoff underdog, but his most recent win came in January 2007 against a Chargers team that was favored by five.
One other notable thing about Belichick's tenure in New England is that the Patriots have NEVER made the Super Bowl in a year where they had to play in the wild-card round (2005, 2006, 2009, 2019). The closest they came was in 2006 when the Patriots came out the wild-card round and advanced all the way to the AFC title game before losing a wild 38-34 game to the Colts. Based on that information, you might want to avoid betting on the Patriots to make it to the Super Bowl.
Winning the Super Bowl as a wild-card team isn't an easy thing to do in the NFL: Only six teams have done it over the past 40 years. However, one of the teams to pull it off was Tom Brady's Buccaneers in 2020, which might help motivate Belichick to accomplish the same feat this year.
If Belichick does lead his team to a Super Bowl win, it would arguably be the best coaching performance of his career. Not only would it mean coming out of the wild-card round, but it would mean winning the Super Bowl with a rookie quarterback, which is notable, because no NFL team has ever won a Super Bowl with a rookie under center.
Belichick making NFL history en route to his seventh Super Bowl win would likely be enough to re-ignite those Brady-Belichick debates, especially if New England's Super Bowl win came against the Buccaneers.