Patriots

Patriots

Let's clear something up first: The New England Patriots have set an exceptionally high bar.

So, when we're discussing the "worst" Patriots teams in recent memory, we're choosing between clubs with double-digit win totals and Super Bowl aspirations that aren't "bad" by any standard definition.

With that said: The 2018 Patriots very well could be the least successful squad Bill Belichick has coached this decade.

FiveThirtyEight's Neil Paine provided the evidence Wednesday. First, he noted New England's current "Elo rating" -- an advanced metric that essentially quantifies a team's success -- is 1641, the lowest it's been through 11 games since the 2009 season.

That 10-6 campaign was the last time the Patriots won fewer than 12 games in a season and generally is regarded as one of the (relative) low points of Belicick's Patriots tenure.

If you don't buy into "Elo ratings," Paine has a simpler big-picture stat. New England's plus-58 point differential through 11 games also is its lowest since 2009. The Patriots' 307 points scored to date trail just the 2016 and 2013 teams as the fewest in this decade through 11 games, while their 249 points allowed are the second-most, behind only the 2010 club.

Again: The Pats are 8-3 and boast the second-best record in the AFC. But by historical standards, they're on pace to follow in the footsteps of the few New England squads that failed to reach the Super Bowl in the last eight-plus years.

 

There's one more silver lining, though: The Patriots' relative "mediocrity" may still be good enough to hoist the Lombardi Trophy. That 1641 Elo rating is the second-best in the AFC behind only the Kansas City Chiefs, who haven't made it out of the Divisional Round since 1993.

To that point: Tom Brady and Co. still are by far the NFL's most experienced postseason club -- which is something numbers can't quantify.

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