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Patriots Drop Regular-Season Finale, Limp Into Playoffs

By Lorenzo Recupero

The New England Patriots finished the regular-season with a winning record, but how they look entering the postseason is hardly ideal.

Sunday’s nagging 33-24 loss to the Miami Dolphins had some playoff-seeding implications and the Patriots didn’t help themselves with a lackluster performance defensively, as the Dolphins (9-8) racked up 195 yards on the ground and nearly doubled the scoring output allowed per game (17.83 points) by the Pats. The offense and rookie quarterback Mac Jones arguably could be held more at fault for the loss, though, with 3 turnovers (interception, 2 fumbles).

The loss pushed the Patriots from the 5th to the 6th seed, which really made things more difficult. If the Pats won Sunday, they would be meeting the untested, rookie-led Bengals in the playoffs but instead they will meet Buffalo, the AFC East champions the past two seasons.

Furthermore, the Patriots opened and closed the season with a loss to the Dolphins for the first time since pre-TB12 and dynasty days, handing Miami their first regular-season sweep of the team since 2000.

All things considered, let’s just say that’s no way to strike fear into the hearts of your next opponent – playoffs or not.

Losers of 3 of their last 4 games, the Patriots (10-7) do not resemble a playoff group that is ready to put up much of a fight against the National Football League’s top-tier teams, including the Buffalo Bills (11-6), who are awaiting a visit from the Pats in Saturday’s Wild Card matchup (8:15 p.m., CBS) and are widely regarded as the best team in the AFC.

And if history is any indication, it says the Patriots will not last long in the playoffs.

The last time the Pats entered the playoffs following a loss (2019) they were bounced in the Wild Card round. Since 2015, a regular-season finale victory preceded three visits to the Super Bowl, with the Pats winning two of them. In 2019, the Pats last visit to the playoffs, they lost to Miami to wrap up the regular-season and got bounced in the Wild Card game by the Titans.

For New England football fans, this is the reason Saturday can’t come quickly enough. Will it be collective jeering or cheering by game’s end? We will get that answer soon.

Until then, the wobbly Pats must get their act together if they hope to remain a part of the NFL’s second season show.

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