Incredible consistency, aside from the five Super Bowl titles, might be the most impressive part of the New England Patriots' dynasty over the last 18 years.
The Patriots beat the Minnesota Vikings 24-10 at Gillette Stadium on Sunday to clinch a winning record for the 18th consecutive season, which extends their own NFL record. The last season during which the Pats failed to earn a record above. 500 was 2000, when they went 5-11 in Bill Belichick's first campaign as head coach.
PATRIOTS 24, VIKINGS 10
Last week, the Patriots secured their 18th straight season with a .500 record or better. The record for the most consecutive .500 seasons is 21, set by the Dallas Cowboys from 1965 through 1985.
Winning is very hard in the modern NFL, even if the Patriots don't make it look that way. Free agency, huge contracts, trades, the salary cap and other factors are meant to create parity and prevent dynasties, but all of those things have yet to keep the Patriots from winning on a very consistent basis.
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Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman and center Ted Karras, who were each listed as questionable with injuries, made the trip to Cincinnati with the team Saturday but backup defensive tackle Byron Cowart was downgraded to out with a concussion, according to ESPN's Mike Reiss.
Edelman, the team's leading receiver, has been battling shoulder and ankle injuries. Karras, the starting center, missed the loss to the Kansas City Chiefs last Sunday with a knee injury. Both were limited in practice this week.
The Patriots (10-3), coming off back-to-back losses to the Houston Texans and Chiefs, play the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday at 1 p.m.
Here we have two teams at opposite ends of the food chain. The 10-3 Patriots and the 1-12 Bengals. Unfortunately, they have one thing in common. Neither one scores much. The Bengals high for the season is 23 points and that was in Week 4. They’ve only scored more than 20 points twice.
The Patriots have scored fewer than three offensive touchdowns in five out of six games and the lone game they scored three – in Houston – two came in the very late stages after falling behind 21-3. So this game has the potential to look like a Patriots-Bengals from the not-so-distant past. Not the “On to Cincinnati” game people remember from 2014, but the ugly slog in the rain a year earlier when the Patriots lost 13-6 at Cincy.
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So many elements are the same now for the Patriots offense – limited talent at wideout and a lack of protection up front.
Because of the Patriots' offensive struggles, what seemed for months like a simple walkover has the potential to be uncomfortably competitive.