Pats back in the playoffs
12/19/16 11:00 AM
The New England Patriots impressive string of playoff appearances will continue in 2016. After qualifying for the postseason six times in 27 seasons and playing only nine playoff games from 1960-1986, the Patriots have played in 38 playoff games while making 17 appearances in the 22 years from 1994-2015.
Beyond their AFL playoff berth in 1963, New England was one-and-done in 1976, 1978, 1982 and 1986.
Of course, the Patriots sandwiched in their unexpected Wild Card ride to Super Bowl XX in 1985 when they won three road playoff games to capture the club’s first AFC Championship.
The 1990s saw another run to the Super Bowl (and a second Super Bowl defeat), but the club finished with a sub .500 (3-4) record in its four playoff appearances.
New England experienced a rebirth at the turn of the century and the start of a spectacular run of success that continues today. Since 2001, the Patriots own a 22-9 playoff record over 13 appearances, all of which came as the AFC Eastern Division champion.
This year’s division title was the club’s NFL-record eighth straight, which surpassed the Los Angeles Rams seven consecutive NFC West titles won between 1973-1979. New England’s 14 playoff wins in the century’s first decade tied them with both the Cowboys and Steelers (1970s) for most playoff wins in a decade.
Among teams that have played 15 playoff games, the Patriots own the second best all-time winning percentage at .604 (29-19) behind only the Baltimore Ravens .652 (15-8) mark. A playoff win this January will mark the team’s sixth straight season with a playoff win, which would tie the NFL record achieved by the Cowboys from 1991-1996.
The Patriots also have reached five straight conference championship games, tying them with the Oakland Raiders (1973-1977) for consecutive appearances. Of course, New England is also one of four teams in the league to have reached eight Super Bowls along with Dallas, Denver and Pittsburgh.
Since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, the Patriots are 4-3 in the Wild Card playoff round, 12-6 in the Divisional round, 8-4 on Conference Championship weekend and 4-4 in the Super Bowl. They also lost what is considered a first round playoff game at the end of the 1982 strike-shortened season.
The Dec. 18 win in Denver on a short week was impressive to say the least. The Patriots were just 3-7 in Denver since 2000 and traveling to the Mile High City following a Monday night game added to the challenge. The win not only clinched New England’s 18th
divisional title, it also clinched a first-round playoff bye. It is the 11th
time in team history that the club has earned an opening-round bye. The only Divisional Round loss during that time came back in 2010 when the Pats dropped a 28-21 decision to the Jets. The Patriots have sat out Wildcard weekend every year since 2010 and played in the AFC Championship Game from 2011-2015 with 2-3 record in those games (2-1 at home).
So with a bye clinched, the Patriots will host a Divisional Round game at Gillette Stadium on either January 14 or 15.