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Beating up on Losers…

Much has been made in the week leading up to the AFC Championship game about the Patriots failure to beat any teams with winning records this season, but does that fact have any meaning? I think this is a pretty clear example of someone grabbing a stat that is factually true, but intellectually meaningless and spreading it for all to hear. Then, everyone else jumps on board, running along the watchtower shouting, sharing the proclamation, without ever stopping to actually think about what’s being said.

It is true that the Pats have not beaten a team with a winning record this season, but it’s also a misleading stat, because some of the teams that the Pats beat, would have had winning records if they’d won against New England. Brady’s boys beat San Diego, Oakland, Denver, Philadelphia, Dallas and the Jets twice. If you reverse any of those games, the Pats opponent suddenly has a winning record.

Beyond that, you can only beat the teams in front of you, which in all but three cases this season the Pats did. If you’d looked at the Pats schedule at the start of the season, you’d have felt it was a hard schedule. The Jets were coming off two straight AFC championship games, the Eagles were widely believed to be some sort of dream team, the Cowboys are the Cowboys, the Colts are the Colts, Miami was seen as an up and coming plucky team, as were the Raiders, and the Redskins are… well, no.

Yet, when the season played out, the Jets act had worn thin, the Eagles took longer to jell than expected, the Cowboys ARE the Cowboys, the Colts were a Manning away from being the Colts, Miami wasn’t so much up and coming as flaming out, and the Raiders lost their quarterback, their owner, and their minds (when they thought Carson Palmer was worth two picks, let alone a first).

Taken further, with a few exceptions, this was a season of almost universal parity: eight teams finished 8-8 (and the Pats beat six of them), three teams finished 9-7 (and the Pats lost to one of them), and two teams finished 7-9 (and the Pats beat one). That’s 13 teams hovering around the middle and the Pats played eight of them.  New England, more than any other team, was responsible for determining who passed the threshold of mediocrity to potential glory.

Yes, the Pats lost to the Steelers and they lost to the Giants (that 9-7 team), and each of those losses are tough to swallow, but lets not extrapolate that out to be something meaningful. It’s not. It’s two games, and really, since the Giants could just as easily have been one of those teams without a winning record, it’s really just one game.

I’m not saying the Pats are going to beat the Ravens – I think they will, but I’m a moron, so who the heck knows – I’m just saying that this fact that keeps getting repeated – that the Pats haven’t beaten a team with a winning record – is vapid and meaningless.

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