There’s no denying that New England is the greatest regular season team in modern NFL history. From 2001 to 2017, the Patriots have had a 0.768 winning percentage in the regular season; that’s over 10% higher than the second-best team, the Steelers at 0.660.
That’s also the best winning percentage over any 17-year period in history, better than the 1946-1962 Browns (an AAFC-aided 0.756), the 1933-1949 Bears (0.749), and the 1966-1983 Raiders (0.743).
Oh, and the last 8 years? The Patriots have won 80% of their games, the best of any NFL team in any 8-year stretch (the AAFC-aided Browns posted a 0.865 winning percentage from 1946-1953). More incredibly, the Patriots are now going to their 7th-straight AFC Championship Game.
Since losing to Mark Sanchez and the Jets in the Division Round of the playoffs to end the 2010 season, the Patriots have:Won at least 12 games and the AFC East in each of the last 7 seasons.
- Earned a first round bye and a home game in the Division Round.
- Been, on average, a 10-point favorite in the Division Round.
- Covered in 6 of those 7 games, and won those games by an average score of 37-20.
So yeah, the Patriots season really begins now. New England is 3-3 in those AFCCGs, with a 3-1 mark at home (beating the Steelers and Colts, splitting with the Ravens) and 0-2 in Denver. For all the drama in the modern NFL, parity hasn’t quite reached Massachusetts. The Patriots win most of their games, win the AFC East, take a rest, beat up on a weak opponent at home, and then are in the AFC Championship Game. Year after year.
The Patriots are in the AFC Championship Game for a record 7th consecutive year. Before the Brady/Belichick Patriots, the Oakland Raiders set the record for consecutive conference championship game appearances at 5 (1973-1977), followed by the Eagles (2001-2004), Cowboys (1992-1995), Bills (1990-1993), and Cowboys (1970-1973).
So yeah, seven straight AFC Championship Games is a lot. But you know what else? This is going to be the 12th time the Patriots have made the AFC Championship Game with Brady and Belichick in 16 tries (omitting the 2008 season). New England missed the playoffs once, lost once in the Wild Card round to the Ravens, and twice in the division round (Broncos, Jets).
Drew Brees set an NFL record by completing 72% of his passes this year, but the Brady/Belichick Patriots are more likely to make the AFCCG (75%) than 2017 Brees was to complete a pass. Let that sink in.
This is Brady’s 12th conference championship game, which is the same as the top two other players in AFC history (Elway, Bradshaw). Below are all quarterbacks to start at least 3 conference championship games since the merger:
- 12 – Tom Brady (after Sunday)
- 7 – Joe Montana
- 6 – Roger Staubach
- 6 – Terry Bradshaw
- 6 – John Elway
- 5 – Ken Stabler
- 5 – Jim Kelly
- 5 – Brett Favre
- 5 – Donovan McNabb
- 5 – Peyton Manning
- 5 – Ben Roethlisberger
- 4 – Troy Aikman
- 4 – Steve Young
- 3 – Fran Tarkenton
- 3 – Danny White
- 3 – Dan Marino
- 3 – Bernie Kosar
- 3 – Kurt Warner
- 3 – Joe Flacco
- 3 – Aaron Rodgers
It’s easy to become numb to the fact that the Patriots season only starts in the AFC Championship Game. That doesn’t make it less remarkable; in fact, it might make it even more.