The New England Patriots are 9-1 and lead the AFC standings entering Week 12 of the 2019 NFL season, but that's not enough for one former star player to believe teams still fear playing the defending Super Bowl champions.
Greg Jennings, who was once a very productive player and won a Super Bowl with the Green Bay Packers, is currently an NFL analyst for FOX Sports. He went on FS1's morning show "First Things First" on Tuesday and boldly claimed teams are now unafraid of playing the Patriots.
“You’ve got to think about just the history of the New England and what goes before them, what precedes them? Their reputation has always preceded them. And teams are just not afraid to play the New England Patriots. They’re just not. There’s always been this little angst with teams going into Foxboro in January because of who? Tom Brady, and what he provides in the playoffs. Now, I get it, he’s a different player typically in the playoffs, and you don’t have to be so great, but you just can’t make mistakes, and he typically doesn't do that. But when I look at these teams and what they’ve always been afraid of or leery of is Tom Brady beating them. And I just don’t see that being the case — No. 1 because his ability has started to decline, and then you already don’t have the personnel that’s going to elevate and supplement what he’s now lacking, which they did last year in Sony Michel.”
Jennings fails to remember everyone made these points last season when the Los Angeles Chargers went into Gillette Stadium for the AFC Divisional Round. The Patriots had struggled to an 11-5 record and no team was going to fear playing them in the playoffs. The Chargers were 12-4 and, according to the "experts", it was finally going to be the year Phillip Rivers beat Brady in the postseason. What happened? The Patriots demolished the Chargers 41-28 (the halftime score was 35-7 Pats).
The very next week, the same criticisms bubbled back up to the surface. The Patriots allegedly had no chance to beat MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs on the road in the AFC Championship Game. But the Patriots did win, and Brady was almost flawless when it mattered most late in the fourth quarter and overtime. Brady won his record-breaking sixth Super Bowl title two weeks later.
The playoffs are a different beast. The pressure and expectations are increased dramatically. It's hard for a lot of players to overcome it, especially when they have little experience playing in January. Brady is arguably the best playoff performer of all-time, regardless of sport. And you can bet teams really don't want to go to Foxboro in January when it's freezing cold and the best coach and quarterback in league history are on the home sideline.
In the meantime, would anyone be surprised if the above clip is played inside Gillette Stadium this week? Maybe fans should be thanking Jennings, because this is prime bulletin board material for a team that thrives off that kind of stuff.
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