Many people have tried to downplay some of the New England Patriots' unprecedented success over the last 20 years by pointing out the AFC East has been among the weakest divisions in the NFL during that stretch. While the AFC East hasn't produced many winning teams outside of the Patriots this century, New England has fared just as well against quality competition around the league.
The Patriots have consistently been well-prepared to face the best teams, and a lot of that credit goes to head coach Bill Belichick. His teams are prepared for any situation, and they tailor their game plan around that week's opponent. This ability to adapt and not stick to one identity has made the Patriots difficult to scheme against. And, of course, it also helps to have had the greatest quarterback of all-time in Tom Brady leading your offense.
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Here's a crazy stat on the Patriots' record against teams that made the playoffs in that season. Even the most die-hard Patriots fans might be surprised at this win percentage.
Despite all of the Patriots' success versus playoff-caliber teams over the last two decades, they were just OK against this level of competition last season.
Here's a recap of those games:
Week 4 at Bills: 16-10 win
Week 9 at Ravens: 37-20 loss
Week 11 at Eagles: 17-10 win
Week 13 at Texans: 28-22 loss
Week 14 vs. Chiefs: 23-16 loss
Week 16 vs. Bills: 24-17 win
One of the many challenge ahead for the Patriots in 2020 is maintaining an absurd level of success against good teams with Brady no longer on the roster. Brady left the Patriots in free agency and signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Jarrett Stidham, who was a rookie last season, is the most likely quarterback to start for the Patriots.
Overcoming the loss of several important players who departed in free agency will be difficult for Belichick and his team, but oddsmakers remain confident in the Patriots' chances of being competitive next season. They have made the Patriots the favorites to win the AFC East division, and also given them the third-best odds to win the AFC in 2020.