By Mark Paulette,
Say goodbye to the Patriots’ yellow brick road to Super Bowl LIII.
In all likelihood, that path was blown to smithereens when Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts trounced the Texans in Houston on Saturday and earned the right to be the sacrificial lamb for the Kansas City Chiefs, this Saturday at Arrowhead Stadium.
Forget playing a flawed-Texans squad in the Divisional Round while the Chiefs had to tangle with the Chargers. Now, the Pats must face Phillip Rivers and the Bolts in what will likely be New England’s toughest Divisional Round match-up since their 35-31 win vs. Baltimore in 2014.
Should they emerge from that contest victorious – and the odds are favorable, as Tom Brady is 7-0 in his career vs. Phillip Rivers – the Patriots will then be forced to make the trip to Arrowhead, a location which has not been kind to Brady and the Patriots.
And if you’re thinking the Colts, winners of 11-of-12, can do the Pats a favor and knock off Kansas City this weekend, Patriots’ Insider Nick O’Malley of MassLive.com on Monday’s edition of ‘The Drive’ gave Indy a “20-to-30-percent chance” of beating the Chiefs.
In a year when the Patriots have seemingly been a step or two away from the AFC’s summit yet not able to take advantage of the opportunities, those missteps have finally come back to bite the Pats.
Think back to the Patriots’ week six victory over the Chiefs, or the Rams’ 54-51 victory over KC on Monday Night Football. In both instances, New England was just one-game from the #1 spot in the conference but failed to close the gap. The worst example of New England’s inability was of course the ‘Miami Miracle’, as a week later the Chiefs would fall to the Chargers, meaning had a single Patriot been able to bring down Kenyon Drake, or had Rob Gronkowski not tripped over his own clumsy feet, New England would’ve finished the regular season with the 1-seed.
The league tried desperately to fall back to the Patriots and gift them another easy road to Atlanta, but time and time again New England failed to capitalize and are now left to deal with the consequences.
From yellow brick road to the doomsday scenario. The Pats face possibly the toughest road to the Super Bowl during this incredible 18-year run, in a year in which many have written this Patriots squad off as one of the weakest of the 18-year bunch.
The 2018 Patriots have no one to blame but themselves. The AFC was there for the taking, and for one of the few times over the life of the dynasty, the Pats didn’t secure it. Now, should Brady and Co. hope to play in the Mercedes-Benz Dome on February 3rd, they must do something which they have not done since October 21st – beat a playoff-caliber team on the road.