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Patriots have easiest path to Super Bowl in modern NFL history, per FiveThirtyEight

Alex Reimer
January 18, 2018 - 1:24 pm

It’s not trolling to say the Patriots are in the midst of the easiest Super Bowl path in modern NFL history. It’s a simple recitation of fact.

According to Nate Silver’s nerdy minions at FiveThirtyEight, the Patriots will have faced the worst pair of opponents of any conference title-game participant with a first-round bye since 1990. FiveThirtyEight’s Elo ratings, which measure the strength of teams at any moment, gave the Titans and Jaguars the lowest chance of beating the Patriots entering the playoffs. The metric says the Patriots possess an 81 percent chance of winning the AFC and making their eighth Super Bowl with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.

It was not supposed to be this way. The Titans and Jaguars scored upsets over the Chiefs and Steelers, the two AFC clubs who Elo thought had the best chance of defeating New England. The Patriots also deserve some credit for this phenomenon. Elo ranks this Patriots team as the sixth-best of the Brady-Belichick era. 

But even if you swap out the Patriots and replace them with a league-average “final four” team, it would have a 55 percent chance of reaching the Super Bowl after playing the Titans and Jaguars, per Elo. That would still be the easiest road to the Super Bowl since the current playoff format was configured in 1990.

The Jaguars’ vicious defense appears capable of harassing Brady, especially if they can generate pressure without blitzing. But if the Patriots lose, it would be an incredible upset. The truth is in the numbers. 

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