Patriots

Watch out, 2000 Ravens? Patriots defense still on pace to make history

Watch out, 2000 Ravens? Patriots defense still on pace to make history

Tom Brady admitted Monday morning that the New England Patriots' strengths are their defense and special teams.

He's not wrong -- especially about that defense.

The Patriots allowed just 10 points to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, holding Carson Wentz and Co. scoreless in the second half to escape with a 17-10 win.

That's the sixth time in 10 games New England has allowed 10 points or fewer, dropping its points allowed per game to 10.8, easily the lowest in the NFL. (The San Francisco 49ers are second at 15.5 points allowed per game.)

The Patriots' defensive effort Sunday also means they're very much in the running to have one of the best defenses in NFL history, even after giving up 37 points to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 9.

Courtesy of Boston Sports Info on Twitter, check out how New England's defense sticks up with the 1985 Chicago Bears and 2000 Ravens -- widely considered the two best defenses of all time -- through 10 games.

The Patriots have allowed just three fewer points through 10 games than the Ravens, whose 165 points allowed during the 2000 season are the current NFL record.

And the 2019 Patriots — led by All-Pro cornerback Stephon Gilmore and the "Boogeymen" linebacker corps of Dont'a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins — lead both the '85 Bears and '00 Ravens in point differential, opponent passer rating and touchdown passes allowed.

New England has feasted on some subpar competition, and keeping this historic pace won't be easy: Their next three opponents — the Dallas Cowboys, Houston Texans and Kansas City Chiefs — all rank in the top 10 in points per game.

But the Patriots haven't had it much easier than either the '85 Bears or the '00 Ravens. Per Boston Sports Info, here's the combined winning percentage for each of these teams' first 10 opponents:

2000 Ravens: .440
1985 Bears: .420
2019 Patriots: .400

That data suggests the Patriots very much have a chance to make history if their defense keeps playing at this level. But here's the stat Bill Belichick and Co. probably care most about: The '85 Bears and '00 Ravens both won the Super Bowl.

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Officials mistakenly penalized Chiefs five yards for a 10-yard penalty vs. Patriots

Officials mistakenly penalized Chiefs five yards for a 10-yard penalty vs. Patriots

Referee Jerome Boger and his crew are receiving plenty of criticism Monday after an awful officiating performance in Sunday's Week 14 game between the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs.

There were plenty of missed calls throughout the evening.

Patriots rookie wide receiver N'Keal Harry dove toward the pylon early in the fourth quarter for what looked like a touchdown. The officials ruled Harry stepped out of bounds at the 3-yard line even though replays clearly showed he hadn't. The officials likely cost the Patriots a touchdown shortly before the Harry mistake when they ruled Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce down by contact and blew the play dead despite a clear fumble and recovery by New England cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who had a clear path to the end zone.

Despite those glaring errors, the worst mistake from Boger's crew might have been its inability to penalize the Chiefs the correct amount of yards on an illegal hands to the face penalty in the third quarter. Chiefs guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif committed the penalty, which was the correct call, but Boger announced the infraction as a 5-yard penalty when the rulebook states it's a 10-yard loss (click here to watch Boger incorrectly announce the penalty).

Mixing up penalty yardage would be understandable in most cases because the crew still has time before the next play is run to correct the referee and ensure the proper yardage is enforced. That didn't happen, though, because none of the seven officials on the field noticed the error. The Chiefs, as a result, moved back from their own 44-yard line to their own 39-yard line. This Kansas City drive ultimately ended in a punt, which New England blocked to set up great field position for a possession that resulted in a Brandon Bolden touchdown run.

This kind of penalty mixup is inexcusable for any officiating crew, but especially for an experienced official like Boger, who's in his 13th season as an NFL referee.

Patriots react to officiating mistakes made in loss to Chiefs>>>

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NFL playoff picture: Three likely scenarios for Patriots on Super Bowl LIV path

NFL playoff picture: Three likely scenarios for Patriots on Super Bowl LIV path

The New England Patriots' chances of earning the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs took a massive hit with Sunday's Week 14 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, but the defending Super Bowl champions still control their own destiny when it comes to securing a first-round bye.

All the Patriots have to do is win their final three games and they'll lock up the No. 2 seed, assuming the No. 1 seed Baltimore Ravens don't have a complete meltdown over the next 21 days. ESPN's Football Power Index (FPI) gives the Ravens a 96 percent chance of securing homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.

So, assuming the Patriots win their final three games of the season and earn the No. 2 seed as AFC East champs, here are three of the most likely playoff scenarios confronting them.

Scenario #1
Divisional Round
: vs. Kansas City Chiefs
AFC Championship Game: at Baltimore Ravens

The Chiefs are the No. 3 seed and should stay in that spot through the end of the regular season. ESPN's FPI projects the Chiefs to finish 11-5, or one game ahead of the Houston Texans for the No. 3 seed. Kansas City, as the No. 3 seed, likely would play the Pittsburgh Steelers or Tennessee Titans at home on Wild Card Weekend. The Chiefs would be favored over both of those teams, and even though they lost 35-32 to the Titans in Week 10, it's hard to imagine Tennessee beating KC again (and at Arrowhead Stadium).

If the No. 3 seed wins on the first playoff weekend, that team automatically would go to Foxboro for the Divisional Round. The Patriots would need to earn their third playoff win versus the Chiefs since 2015 to set up another rematch in the AFC Championship Game versus the Ravens.

Scenario #2
Divisional Round
: vs. Houston Texans
AFC Championship Game: at Baltimore Ravens

The Chiefs are no lock for the No. 3 seed. Kansas City should win its final three games (home to Denver Broncos, at Chicago Bears, home to Los Angeles Chargers), but if the Chiefs slip up at all and the Texans or Titans finish with the same record as them, the AFC South winner would take the No. 3 seed. How so? Well, the Titans and Texans both beat the Chiefs earlier this season, so they own the head-to-head tiebreaker.

The Texans did beat the Patriots 28-22 at NRG Stadium in Week 13, but Houston is an easier opponent for New England than Kansas City. The Texans, compared to the Chiefs, have less playoff experience and are by most accounts not as elite at both quarterback and head coach. The Texans have also never won at GIllette Stadium. Houston is 0-7 versus New England on the road since the two franchises first played in the 2003 season. The Texans also play in a stadium with a roof and would be more susceptible to being negatively impacted by any frigid/snowy January weather conditions in Foxboro.

Scenario #3
Divisional Round
: vs. Houston Texans
AFC Championship Game: vs. Kansas City Chiefs

The most likely best-case scenario for the Patriots would be the Texans coming to Gillette Stadium for the Divisional Round, combined with the Chiefs beating the Ravens in their Divisional Round matchup. The Chiefs actually are the only team to beat both the Patriots and Ravens in 2019.

This scenario would set up, assuming the Patriots beat the Texans, another New England-Kansas City showdown in the AFC title game. The Patriots beat the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium in last season's conference title game, but this matchup would be in Foxboro, and New England is 7-1 all-time (6-1 in the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick era) in AFC title games played at home.

Updated NFL playoff picture, standings entering Week 15>>>

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