The Patriots are one win away from doing what they always seem to do: Earn a first-round bye in the AFC playoffs.
If the Patriots beat the Jets on Sunday (or if the Texans lose), New England will get a first-round playoff bye, just as it has every year since 2010.
The last time the Patriots played in the wild card round of the playoffs was in 2009, when they went 10-6, won the NFC East, won at home in the wild card round but then lost at Denver in the divisional round of the playoffs. Incredibly, all but three NFL teams have played in the wild card round more recently than the Patriots: The Bears, who likely will play in the wild card round this season, and the Buccaneers and Browns, who haven’t played in the wild card round since 2009 because they haven’t been to the playoffs since 2009.
What the Patriots are doing in the 18 years since Tom Brady took over as starting quarterback is the most remarkable run any team has ever had in NFL history. Even if they fall short of making their ninth Super Bowl and winning their sixth with Brady this season, they’re winning with a consistency that no other franchise has ever shown.