The Patriots have to play in the wildcard round for the first time since 2009! Thank you Fitzmagic, you are the hero we never deserved.

It made me realize there are multiple members of the Patriots who are multi-year, multiple super bowl winning veterans who have never played in a wildcard round. Ever. I looked up their roster and the two biggest names that stood out to me are Devin McCourty (drafted in 2010) and Dont’a Hightower (drafted in 2012). I’m sure a few other folks have also been on the team for some time without seeing a wildcard game. It should also be noted that Gronk never played a wildcard game in his entire career. This is just another absolutely astounding statistic displaying the sheer dominance this franchise has had for so long.

I’m also kind of interested in the team for the first time in a while. This is a flawed Patriots team the likes of which I feel like we haven’t seen since 2011, when the roles were reversed and the offense was stellar but the defense was hot garbage. I still have them as my SB pick, because we live in hellworld and can’t have nice things. But getting outside the meme side of things the main reason I still feel the Pats will win it all even when there are clearly better teams in the playoffs (Ravens, 49ers, Saints) is because there is no team I trust more to take the playoffs one week at a time like those annoying Patriots. Football isn’t like the other 3 big sports, the playoffs aren’t a “best of” series. Every week is one game elimination. Being the better team overall in football doesn’t matter. What matters is being the better team for 3 hours. That’s why I love football. It naturally gives life to chaos simply through structure. The Patriots have achieved their irritating immortality by being the one franchise that seems to actually understand this. There is no better coach and franchise that is better at taking every game one at a time, one moment at a time, never getting ahead of itself.

If I had to win a single football game, I know what NFL coach I would want in the driver seat. I’d want Belichick in there. With the playoffs being just that, I still completely trust Belichick to be able to come up with the gameplans that would be the formula to beat every team in the NFL, and it only comes down to if the players execute. The Ravens would blow New England to smithereens most weeks, but Belichick only needs to figure out a way to stifle that franchise for a single game, and it won’t matter if the Ravens are the better team overall. So yeah, I’m still 100% on the hellworld result. God I can’t wait till the day we all die and the sun explodes because that seems like it’s more likely than this stupid team going away.

That said, I’ve often wondered what the history of this franchise would look like if they had spent the last 20 years with more consistent competition. If they had to spend a few more of these past seasons actually playing in the wildcard round once in a while. The brief period in which the Pats had actual divisional competition (The early Rex Ryan Jets), the Pats stumbled around in the playoffs a bit more. The AFC East has been a joke for so long and the AFC in general an extremely top-heavy conference that the Patriots never really seemed like they had to truly struggle and claw for one of those coveted bye weeks. They never had enough other teams clawing close with similar records, ready to steal a win and a seeding spot. The NFC is interesting as hell because besides it still being roughly the same few teams for the past decade showing up, they were always so close to each other in record, constantly slugging it out. The Pats always had what felt like an easy road every year. The AFC and AFCE specifically just never got their shit together to make the Patriots really earn it. Maybe the Brady era would be over by now if the Pats got punched a little more often.

So despite all the rightful praise the Pats should get for being so consistently smart and excellent for the past decade, there will always be that part of me that wonders if they were also major beneficiaries of some weak competition. In any case, I hope Ryan Tannehill rises like the phoenix he is and strikes the Patriots down in one glorious act of revenge next weekend. If he does, you better believe the money saga is getting a new chapter.