Pats Look to Continue Trend of Post-Bye, Second Half Dominance
Are you starting to get worried thinking of the prospect of facing Cam Newton and the red-hot Carolina Panthers Monday night? Here's a couple of stats that should help cool those nerves down.
Take a look at how the Patriots have fared recently in the second half of the season under Bill Belichick. Last year, the Pats started the season 3-3, but rode a 7-1 second half to the AFC Championship game. The previous year, they limped into the second half with two straight tough losses, only to go 8-0 down the stretch in a year that ended with a Super Bowl appearance. 2010 also saw the Patriots run the table in the second half. I'm not good at math, but my abacus says that's 23-1 over a three year span.
Of course, the Patriots got the second half of their season started off right with a 55-31 thrashing of Pittsburgh two weeks ago. The Pats now face what looks like their toughest two game stretch of the season, taking on the upstart Panthers and juggernaut Broncos in back-to-back weeks.
Another reassuring stat for this weeks matchup? The Patriots have been nearly flawless under Belichick when coming off of their bye week. They are 10-3 coming off a bye under Belichick, but that statistic becomes even more impressive when you consider that two of those three losses occurred in his first three years on the job. The Pats have won nine of their last ten post-bye week games, with the only loss in that span coming in 2011 against Pittsburgh.
Of course, none of these numbers will actually affect the outcome of the game Monday. No statistic or trend has ever made a tackle or caught a touchdown, at least to my knowledge. However, those numbers do reflect on the job Belichick has done running this team, especially considering how large the sample size has become. Belichick has proven to be a nightmare to face when he has an extra week to dedicate towards preparation, and his team's have historically always peaked in the second half of the season. With the AFC seemingly wide open (especially if Peyton Manning's ankle gets worse instead of better), the Patriots will be looking to secure a first round bye in the playoffs with another strong second half.