How the New England Patriots 2015 season could go from bad to worse


Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

As you well know, the New England Patriots are in unfamiliar territory having dropped two straight regular season games for only the fifth time since 2003. Opinion vary on just how dire of a situation the Pats are in, but one’s thing is for sure: the Patriots’ grip on the No. 1 seed in the AFC has slackened. Let me play devil’s advocate for a second and tell you how the Patriots’ 2015 season could go from bad to worse.

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First off, alarm bells will certainly ring if the Patriots lose to the Houston Texans on Sunday Night Football. Honestly, such a result is not out of the question. All it would take to make this a very close game is pressure from J.J. Watt and the rest of the Texans’ front seven. Bill O’Brien is well aware that Tom Brady is not nearly as good when under duress.

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If the Patriots were to lose in Week 14, they would limp into the final three games of the season with a 10-3 record. Considering that the Denver Broncos face the Oakland Raiders this week, you can bet that the Broncos will win and take hold of the AFC’s top seed. And then there are the Cincinnati Bengals, who face a tough road test against the Pittsburgh Steelers but are fully capable of winning and reaching 11-2.

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This is all to say that the Bengals and Broncos are formidable squads and will take advantage of any ground given up by the Pats in Week 14.

Looking ahead, there’s no way that the Patriots lose to the Tennessee Titans at home (then again, that’s what we thought about the Philly game). But after that, the Patriots end their season against divisional rivals New York and Miami, with the latter on the road. Neither the Jets nor the Dolphins should be taken lightly, as both teams are very familiar with the Patriots’ way of doing things and have vengeance on their minds after losing to the Patriots earlier this season.

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Losing one or both of those divisional games, assuming the Patriots lose to Houston, would put the Pats’ first-round bye status in serious jeopardy. The Bengals, Broncos and Patriots are all neck-and-neck right now, but only two will get a week off in January. The Broncos own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Pats, so it could come down to Cincy for the No. 2 seed.

In summary, the Patriots’ 2015 season could go from bad to worse if they continue to have rough luck on the injury front and lose to the Texans in Week 14, and then struggle against one or both of their remaining AFC East opponents.

Alright, time to take a deep breath. The point here was to illustrate just how quickly the Patriots could slip in the AFC playoff seedings if business is not taken care of on Sunday night and in the ensuing December games. That being said, it’s hard to imagine the Patriots not learning from their mistakes in the past two weeks. While still persistent, the injury bug is looking up on the whole now that Rob Gronkowski is practicing again, so there is hope that the Patriots won’t be fielding a hospital ward entering January.

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You get the idea. The Patriots don’t have much room for error these days, that’s all I’m trying to say. This team needs that first-round bye something fierce… and they also need to avoid a trip to Denver for the AFC Championship Game, so the No. 1 seed must be corralled.