Gridiron Audibles: Despite Pats Loss, Playoff Seeding Not Affected

GRIDIRON AUDIBLES by Christian A. Guarino
GRIDIRON AUDIBLES by Christian A. Guarino

All things considered Sunday’s 26-20 overtime loss at the New York Jets wasn’t all that terrible, in fact it had some convenience to it.

Sure, a loss is always a tough pill to swallow, but before you assume I’ve completely gone off the deep end, head first into a Bill Belichick Kool-Aid bucket, let’s mull over a few after-effects of the game.

For starters, the Patriots playoff seeding was not affected by the loss as they remained in the top spot in the AFC. With two opportunities to win one game, the Patriots were playing with house money last Sunday at Metlife Stadium.

While some are viewing the loss to the Jets as a sign of things to come, I would vehemently disagree. The offense clearly struggled and the defense couldn’t make a stop in overtime, allowing Ryan Fitzpatrick to look all-pro like. But the fact that the game even went to overtime is a testament to the Patriots. Top receivers Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola remained out of commission, joining the starting pair of safeties Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung who also sat. On the road, versus a divisional opponent which had its’ own playoff hopes on the line, with four starters on the bench and lacking any semblance of a running game and the Patriots still forced overtime? Pretty damn impressive.

“Yeah. I think we have some mental toughness,” said Brady post-game. “A lot of guys have been in and out of the lineup, lot of guys coming in off the street trying to play and help us win. It’s never easy. This time of year, a lot of guys are fighting through bumps and bruises.”

Although Sunday’s loss aided the Jets playoff hopes, something that Patriots fans look upon with disgust, it also seriously disrupted those of the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers are the hottest offense in football featuring the prolific duo of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and wide out Antonio Brown. Going into Sunday’s game versus the Ravens, Brown led all NFL pass catchers with 1,586 receiving yards and was second in catches with 116. With the Steelers losing at Baltimore, it gives the Jets the inside track on the AFC’s final playoff spot. A Jets win at Buffalo this Sunday would seal the Steelers fate. Former Jets and current Bills head coach Rex Ryan may have something to say about that and has plenty of ammunition to derail the Jets hopes. However, if the status quo holds, Pittsburgh’s absence from post-season play would alleviate the Patriots road to Levi Stadium for Super Bowl 50.

Of course, the Patriots and Brady’s own hopes, those of a fifth Lombardi Trophy, depend greatly on the return of injured players as well as clinching home-field throughout the playoffs. The latter can be accomplished with a victory in Miami this Sunday thus ensuring they will be hosting the rest of the conference field at Gillette come January.

“We’ve all got to keep working hard, see what we can accomplish this week in practice. Ultimately, we’ve got to go win next week, that’s a huge game for us. And then you have time to try to improve and be at your best two weeks into the playoffs.”

Christian A. Guarino, a Boston North End resident, writes about football and soccer for the Boston Post Gazette.