Patriots

Patriots' historic dominance vs. playoff teams highlighted in this wild stat

Patriots' historic dominance vs. playoff teams highlighted in this wild stat

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.

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Are Bucs 'automatic' Super Bowl contenders with Tom Brady? Shaq Barrett thinks so

Are Bucs 'automatic' Super Bowl contenders with Tom Brady? Shaq Barrett thinks so

The addition of Tom Brady has Shaquil Barrett feeling like Joe Namath.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker was asked Tuesday on ESPN's "Get Up!" about his expectations for the 2020 season after the greatest quarterback of all time left the New England Patriots to join his team in free agency.

The short answer: They're very high.

"I think (former Bucs quarterback) Jameis (Winston) would have made a big jump, but I think with Brady, it just makes us an automatic contender for a Super Bowl," Barrett said.

"With Jameis, I think we would have been a playoff contender. It would have been still a battle, for sure, and it's still going to be a battle now, but having Tom, I think we're going to be over the edge, and everything on paper looks perfect. We just gotta put the work in."

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There you have it: Pencil the Bucs in for Super Bowl LV, which conveniently will be held at Tampa Bay's Raymond James Stadium. At least Barrett won't have to cancel any travel plans if his bold prediction doesn't come true.

Barrett has reason to be confident: The Bucs have the NFL's fifth-best Super Bowl odds at Draftkings Sportsbook after trading for tight end Rob Gronkowski, who joins an already-loaded offense featuring Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate. Tampa Bay also has a sneaky strong defense that allowed the fewest rushing yards per game in 2019.

The Pro Bowl linebacker may not want to count his chickens before they hatch, though. According to ESPN's Football Power Index, Tampa Bay has just a 4% chance to win Super Bowl LV, while Brady's former team, the Patriots, is right behind at 3%.

Some also believe Brady's Bucs may be overhyped, with one sportsbook executive comparing them to the 2019 Cleveland Browns, who went 6-10 after landing Odell Beckham Jr. and several other stars in the offseason.

Brady has never finished under .500 during a full season as starter, so Tampa Bay should be considered a serious threat. But if it fails to meet expectations, Barrett will be forced to eat crow.

Ever Wonder Series: Why does Bill Belichick cut his sleeves?

Ever Wonder Series: Why does Bill Belichick cut his sleeves?

Bill Belichick isn't one to make fashion statements. But he's also a man of reason.

If you've watched any Patriots game in the last 15 years, you've probably wondered why the surly head coach occasionally stalks New England's sideline in a gray hoodie with cut-off sleeves.

When did Belichick start this bizarre tradition? Does he cut the sleeves off himself? And most importantly, what's his reason for doing so?

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Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran has the answers in the first installment of our "Ever Wonder" series.

As Curran tells it, Belichick was seen uncomfortably fiddling with the sleeves on his gray hoodie during the Patriots' Super Bowl XXXIX win over the Philadelphia Eagles.

The following fall, he walked into the Patriots' equipment room, grabbed a pair of scissors and started cutting.

When asked why he was ruining a perfectly good sweatshirt, Belichick replied:

"My arms are too short."

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A staffer offered to make the sweatshirt differently, but Belichick insisted it was fine. He'd cut the sleeves off himself, creating his own game-day outfit that was "designed to allow one to work as efficiently as possible toward the singular goal of winning."

The chopped-off sleeves also show zero concern toward fashion, which is probably just the way Belichick likes it. As Yahoo Sports' Dan Wetzel reported in 2012, Belichick demonstrated his displeasure toward an NFL mandate that required coaches to wear approved Reebok apparel by choosing "the most unstylish outfit" -- a gray hooded sweatshirt -- and chopping the sleeves off.

"It's comfortable," Belichick said at the time. "I carry my stuff in my pouch."

So, Belichick's decision to cut off his sleeves is part pragmatic and part rebellious. But has it worked?

Patriots.com's Mike Dussault and Pats Propaganda's Bob Yoon have charted Belichick's record in every Patriots game by his clothing choice. And the "Hooded One" actually has a better winning percentage (regular and postseason) when he doesn't use scissors.

Record in games coached in cut-off sleeves: 65-24 (73.0 percent)
Record in games coached short- or long-sleeves: 202-68 (74.8 percent)

Most notably, Belichick has lost three Super Bowls while wearing a hoodie with cutoff sleeves (2007, 2011 and 2018), while every Patriots playoff loss from 2005 to 2012 came when he wore a hoodie with cut-off sleeves.

Belichick wore a short-sleeved jacket during the Patriots' Super Bowl LIII win over the Los Angeles Rams, so it sounds like he got the message.