5 of the biggest what-ifs for the Patriots during the Bill Belichick era

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v New England Patriots
Tampa Bay Buccaneers v New England Patriots / Adam Glanzman/GettyImages
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What if the Patriots beat the Broncos in the 2016 AFC Championship game?

The start of the Patriots dynasty was awe-inspiring, winning three Super Bowls in four years, yet they would match it over a decade later by winning another three Championships in five years to seal the end of quite an era.

It started with Super Bowl XLIX, finally ending the championship drought that plagued the Patriots for over a decade, and followed up with wins in Super Bowl LI and LIII.

Although it was a fun time, and most fans look back on the years fondly, it's hard not to question how different it all could have been if the Patriots had beaten the Broncos in the AFC Championship game from the 2015 season.

It was the final season for Peyton Manning, who went on to win Super Bowl 50 over the red-hot Panthers to ride off into the sunset of retirement with a second Lombardi to tie brother Eli, courtesy of the Denver defense.

The legendary quarterback had not played well that season and had actually been benched for his backup at one point, but it didn't matter when Brady and Manning's teams played each other; it was always a tougher game than anticipated.

The Broncos played hard against the visiting Patriots, sacking Brady four times and intercepting him twice. And as usual, the game came down to the final seconds, with the New England offense hoping to tie the game with a successful two-point conversion, only to come up short with just 12 seconds left in regulation.

It could have been avoided, but usual reliable kicker Stephen Gostkowski missed an extra point after the team's first touchdown in the first quarter, making the situation even worse.

The idea of the Patriots competing in Super Bowl XLIX, 50, LI, LIII, and LIII is difficult not to dwell on because it proves just how much turmoil the Brady/Belichick Patriots wreaked havoc over the NFL, Plus adding another championship to Brady's resume would have been great, and maybe taken a little sting out of the eventual loss to the Eagles in 2017.

Maybe it comes from a spoiled place since fans should be more than thrilled that the Patriots won six Super Bowls in two decades. But the what-ifs are not easy to ignore, even this many years later, and even more so knowing how the end of the dynasty came about.

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