Ever since Tom Brady said “I know everyone thinks we suck” after New England destroyed the Chargers last Sunday, almost everyone (well, everyone outside of New England, that is) has seemingly been shaking their heads at the “underdog Patriots” narrative that has developed.
But here’s the thing — this New England team, the 2018-19 version, has every right to embrace — and shout at the top of their lungs, if they so choose — the underdog role.
Because it’s exactly what they are. And not just because they are 3-point ‘dogs heading into Sunday’s game at Kansas City.
Yes, the Patriots have been favored in their last 69 games that Brady has started, which is nice. And yes, Brady has been to what feels like 90 Super Bowls.
But that doesn’t tell the whole story about this team.
America, for the most part, is sick of Brady. Sick of the surly man in the hoodie. Sick of Super Bowl Sundays in which two of the greatest to have ever done it run out of that tunnel yet again for another shot at the Lombardi.
If it feels like more and more people have jumped on “the Patriots are done” bandwagon this year it’s because it’s true. They have. They can smell blood. They want blood. And there have been many times in which they thought they might have actually seen blood.
Remember way back in Week 3 when the Patriots lost to the Lions (the Lions!) in ugly fashion on SNF to fall to 1-2? Everybody was laughing at them.
The 41-year-old QB was washed up. The future QB of their franchise was playing for the 49ers. Their defense was garbage. And the sexiness of the young and fast offenses that were taking over the league were quickly making the Patriots look, well, out of touch. And old. Really old.
Oh, and what about the way they lost to the Dolphins on that wild final play in Week 14? That’s not how Belichick teams lose. That’s how normal teams lose. The Patriots were suddenly, gasp, normal!
Before the playoffs began, critics were quick to point out Brady’s declining play. They thought he had finally lost a step, or six. His numbers weren’t what they used to be. Remember that interception he threw in the final minutes of their loss to the Steelers? It looked to many like Father Time had finally arrived pick up that W.
Brady wasn’t Brady anymore, they said. The Patriots would be lucky to even win a playoff game, they said. The dynasty is done, they said/hoped.
People have been saying for years that the Patriots suck. But it has mostly been a compliment, said out of spite after seeing their teams lose yet again to No. 12.
Suddenly, though, it looked like this Patriots team might not be like the other Patriots teams from the past.
And with that, came a lot of chatter. All those national TV sports screamers yelling about how this was the end. All those fans feeling a renewed sense of hope that finally (finally!), the Patriots really, well, sucked.
And yet here they are once again, heading to their eighth straight AFC title game and coming off a vintage playoff performance — against a Chargers team that became the sexy pick by “experts” — from Brady and Belichick that we’ve seen from New England so many times over so many years.
But this one feels a bit different.
So when Brady and the Patriots play up that underdog role, it’s true. This year, at least. This was shaping up to finally being the year everyone would happily wave goodbye, most likely with their middle fingers extended high into the air, to the Patriots.
But instead, they’re still here.
It’s New England vs. Everybody, and they love it.
No matter how much you don’t.
Follow For the Win’s Andy Nesbitt on Twitter @anezbitt.
If you love talking football, we have the perfect spot for you. Join our new Facebook Group, The Ruling Off the Field, to engage in friendly debate and conversation with fellow football fans and our NFL insiders.