As we enter the second half of our season I feel...weird. We haven't performed anywhere near as well as I expected. The defense legit forgot how to play football to start the season. Most of our new toys have been disappointing. And the offense is feeling the loss of Jules more than I hoped. But then again, we sit atop the AFC east at 6-2, and if the playoffs started today we'd have a first round bye as the 2 seed in the conference. With all our struggles, that feels pretty damn good. So the question I'd like to answer is if this team has bowl aspirations (spoiler alert: we do) then do we NEED the 1 seed to do it? As one of my favorite Hollywoo game show hosts used to say, "lets find out!"
The Patriots have been a juggernaut the last 16 years due to the Lord of Light keeping Tom young. We have only missed the playoffs twice, and one time was without Tom. Our seeding when we do make the playoffs has been as follows:
1 seed - 6 times
2 seed - 5 times
3 seed - 1 time
4 seed - 2 times
5 seed - never
6 seed - never
Our record with the 3 seed is 0-1. We went one and done and lost to the Ravens at home in the wildcard round, a brutal game if I've ever seen one.
Our record with the 4 seed is 3-2. We lost in the divisional round to the Broncos (Champ Bailey picked Brady in the end zone, which swung the game) and in the AFCCG to the Colts because Ricochet Reche Caldwell can't catch, handing Pey Pey Poopy Pants his first bowl.
Our record with the 2 seed is 9-3. In the 5 times as the 2 seed we went to 2 bowls and 3 AFCCG games. We went 2-0 in the bowls and 0-3 in the AFCCGs obviously.
Our record with the 1 seed is 13-3. In the 6 times as the 1 seed we went to FIVE bowls, going 3-2. We also have one major hiccup as the 1 seed, which is the one and done divisional round loss at home to the Jets the year Brady was the unanimous MVP. I still lose sleep over that game.
When you are a higher seed you are clearly good and you should win games, so these numbers shouldn't really surprise you. But what should surprise you is that in the last 16 years, only 6 Super Bowl winners have been the 1 seed. And four times that was us! So unless it's us handling our business, the one seeds are going down. Not sometimes. Most of the time!
For this reason I start to think who needs the 1 seed, just get in and you can win. Granted, 6 times is the most for any seed. The 2 seed has won 4 times, the 3 seed 1 time, the 4 seed 2 times, the 5 seed 1 time and the 6 seed 2 times. But still, in the battle of 1 seed vs the field, its the field in a landslide.
Here's my issue though. The last FOUR bowl winners have been 1 seeds. So maybe this trend is changing a bit. Also, our 2 bowl wins as a 2 seed came in '01 and '04 where we managed to win away in the AFCCG (at Pitt both times, god we fucking own them) whereas our 3 more recent 2 seeds ended with AFCCG losses. One at home to the Ravens, but two away to the Broncos. The second in particular felt like it would have been a win and a bowl if we had just secured home field.
And then you look at 5 bowl trips in 6 seasons as the 1 seed. We're almost a lock to make the big game if we get home field throughout. It's clear that teams can go on the road in the playoffs and win out, we did it once upon a time, but I'm not sure we can do it anymore. Don't get me wrong, I would pick us to beat anyone, anytime, anywhere, but I'd sure as shit rather it be in Gillette.
Forget about the bottom three. Don't caaaaaaaare. They suck and are not a threat. Pitt and KC already played, with Pit winning a huge game on the road, so they own the tie breaker. And KC obviously mashed us on Banner Night so they have the tie breaker over us. We don't play Pitt until week 15.
Here are the remaining schedules.
Pitt: @ Indy, vs Titans, vs Green Bay, @ Bengals, vs Ravens, vs Pats, @ Texans, vs Browns
Pats: @ Denver, Raiders in Mexico, vs Miami, @ Buffalo, @ Miami, @ Pitt, vs Buffalo, vs Jets
KC: @ Giants, vs Buffalo, @ Jets, vs Oak, vs Chargers, vs Miami, @ Denver
Not a lot scaring you on that Pitt schedule. Green Bay could have been very tough but Rodgers died. At Texans could have been tough but Watson died. I can't get behind the Titans. I could try to argue those divisional games can always go either way, and you have to consider the "Big Ben on the road" factor, but mostly the Pats game is looming very large.
KC has smooth sailing as well. They already lost to Oakland, but this one is at home and they will want some payback. Maybe the Chargers could give them a hard time, and Buffalo could play them tough, but the Chiefs could easily win out.
We have the hardest road for sure in my eyes. Nothing brutal, since the Broncos STINK, and the Raiders are a mess, but I just hate those road games at Buffalo and Miami. No reason they shouldn't be wins, but Miami is a house of horrors for us, and Buffalo deserves my respect this year. Again, it all points to that Pitt game being massive. If we win there, that would put us a game up on them AND give us the tie breaker so basically its a 2 game swing. Throw in one KC loss and it gives us some wiggle room. We could finish 13-3, have a tie breaker over Pitt and KC would be a 4 loss team. This would be great not only because we get the 1 seed, but also because Pitt and KC would have to play each other before getting to us in the playoffs. That second part I think is sneaky HUGE.
Listen, the NFL is a crap shoot. KC could lose at the Jets, Pitt could lose at Indy this week, anything can happen. Sometimes its stupid to start making calculations this early. But if I were a betting man I'd say that at least one of those two teams finishes 13-3, which means we've got our work cut out for us.
If we want that 1 seed we need to lock in and go on a run to close out this season. The good news is we control our own destiny right now. 14-2 and its over. I think 13-3 and a win at Pitt does it too. But 12-4 no chonce.
Considering all this info, the question posed was do we need the 1 seed if we want to be playing in February. Unfortunately, I think the answer is yes.