Patriots can take on the role of playing spoiler to finish 2023 season

New England Patriots tight end Hunter Henry (85) spikes the football after a touchdown reception.
New England Patriots tight end Hunter Henry (85) spikes the football after a touchdown reception. / Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Nationally, last Thursday’s story was the 2-10 New England Patriots went into Pittsburgh with Bailey Zappe starting his first game of the season and upset the playoff-minded Steelers, 21-18. But locally, some fans were irate because the win could reduce the Patriots’ chances of securing a top draft pick.

Those fans were almost disgusted with the Patriots, fearing New England was at risk of losing the second overall selection. The funny part is, even with the win, New England hasn’t changed their draft positioning.

It turns out, if the Patriots keep on winning, they’re going to anger more people than they make happy.

The New England Patriots will ruin opponents’ playoff hopes and some fans' desire for a high NFL Draft selection by playing spoiler

Let me tell the pro-tank crowd a little secret: the players and coaches don’t care about draft picks. They only care about winning the next game.

They have too much pride to step onto the field and lay down.

Besides, what will a high draft pick do for some of these players? Many of them will be free agents at the end of the season, so a new player several months from now won’t help them get to their next contract three months from now.

As for players under contract, or all players in general, they just don’t like the taste of losing. Their laser focus on wins disables their ability to see the bigger picture. Any players selected in April are four months too late to help win now.

So if a pro-tank fan wants to gripe on social media about the Patriots messing up their chances at a top-5 NFL Draft pick (like in this mock draft), expect any current player to tell them where to shove that future draft selection.

As any player knows, it’s not when a team drafts; it’s who they draft. For all the criticism New England’s front office gets for their draft misses, it’s silly how badly some fans want a top selection. If the Patriots whiff at drafting, why do they think things will change with a higher draft pick?

The Patriots know they’ve been eliminated from playoff contention. Why not take a few teams down with them?

The Kansas City Chiefs are up next. KC is a near-lock for the second season but is playing for the bye. With the recent history between these teams, you better believe New England would like to hurt the Chiefs’ chances at an extra week of rest.

Division rivals, the Buffalo Bills and the New York Jets are the season's last two games. Beating both teams is self-explanatory, but a little extra is involved. The Bills have playoff hopes in the balance, but bragging rights are also at stake.

New England broke a four-game losing streak to the Bills with a 29-25 win in October. If the Patriots knock off the Bills in Buffalo in December, it would be the first season sweep since 2019.

The Patriots’ dominance over the Jets has been going on since 2000, winning 38 out of 49 games, including the last 15. Obviously, New England would like to keep the momentum going. It would mean that much more if the season-ending win is over Aaron Rodgers. They want to avenge the overtime loss to the Rodgers-led Packers from last season.

Not to be forgotten, the Denver Broncos who have a thin margin between the playoffs or vacation. Some Patriots would welcome any Bronco to Cancún in January.

No competitor enjoys losing. Selfishly, they want to win every game. They don’t care about the team’s future. Nor do they care about an opponent’s future. The teammates and coaches in the locker room are the only people that matter.

So when it comes to fantasy teams, draft picks, or playoff chances for their opponents, the Patriots don’t care. If winning is going to spoil those results, then the Patriots hope to give the finger to all those who want them to fail.