Like the Red Sox, the Patriots’ postseason spot comes a year ahead of schedule

When Kiké Hernandez made a sacrifice into a calm October night to knock into the battle-winning race and secure a victory over the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League Division Series, the Red Sox season was an instant success.

For the Patriots, the line is just as clear: When Brian Hoyer took the final knee on Sunday, securing a playoff spot for a team that went into the year with similarly low expectations, the season was a success.

At this point, it is easy to make the call. Wherever the Pats go from here, the history books will reflect a year in which they exceeded expectations, developed a rookie quarterback and proved to be a competitive team in a challenging conference.

The parallels between the 2021-22 Patriots and the 2021 Red Sox are eerie.

Both went into the year after losing seasons, the Sox’s first in five years with their worst winning percentage (0.400) since 1965, and the Pats’ first losing season in 20 years.

Both made significant changes in key leadership positions, with Sox re-employment chief Alex Cora and Pats handing over the keys to the attack to Mac Jones.

One important difference: The Sox barely spent in the off-season, while the Patriots guaranteed about $ 160 million in a frenzy of free agents. Still, each team was a small betting favorite to qualify for the off-season and a distant underdog to win their respective division and league / conference.

The Red Sox got off to a warm start, wildly changing expectations, but they were revealed in July and August, only to regain ground with a solid finish heading into the off-season.

The Pats got off to an ugly start, but by the middle of the season they were on their way, with a winning streak of seven games enough for many national experts to start discussing them as a potential favorite in the AFC. The Pats also hit a roadblock around ¾ of the road through the season and it remains to be seen how they end up.

For the Sox, getting into the playoffs was not enough to call them a success. Because they had a leading lead in their division for more than three months, it would have been seen as a disappointment to lose in the Wild Card Game despite low expectations for the pre-season.

Expectations change throughout the year, and the Sox saw theirs grow by leaps and bounds during the summer months. As they handled the Yankees down the stretch and then again to knock them out of the playoffs, the Sox proved themselves as a successful team. By beating the Rays, they were more than that: the last team from their own division.

The Patriots are in a similar situation.

With a potential Wild Card game against the Buffalo Bills lasting two weeks from now, we can see a third game between division rivals that will determine how far the Pats have come. A win in the Wild Card Game, no matter who the opponent is, should be enough to appease even the most ardent Patriots fans across the globe.

Like the Sox coming into the off-season, the Pats will come in as likely underdogs no matter who they face.

They are no better than Chiefs and it would be crazy to argue otherwise. They beat the Titans earlier this season, but Tennessee could secure the No. 1 seed and then get Derrick Henry back, and there is no way the Pats would be favored in that game.

Are they better than the Bills, Bengals or Colts? Probably not.

The only team one could comfortably say the Patriots are better than the one that gets the final playoff spot between the Raiders and Chargers, which is due to meet on Sunday night.

The reason we call the Patriots season a success right now is that it’s not fair to expect them to win a playoff game against the majority of the AFC. However, they should be competitive. If they show up for the Wild Card Game and put up a stink like they did against the Colts three weeks ago or the Bills two weeks ago where they would have been broken if not for a few key drops by Buffalo receivers in the end zone , there will be disappointment.

But the Pats no doubt had a less impressive regular season than the Red Sox did.

Their biggest achievement in the first half was playing close games against the Buccaneers and Cowboys, even though they both lost.

Wins over the Chargers and Titans in the middle of the year were impressive, and although the wind-bowl game in Buffalo was one of the strangest football games we’ll ever see, the defensive performance and carefully crafted game plan deserve some credit in a hard-fought victory.

In general, the Pats have had an easy road. Out of their 17 games, only six (or seven if the Chargers sneak in) have come up against playoff teams, and they are 2-4 in those games. They have had the 25th most difficult schedule this year, according to PowerRankingsGuru.com.

Still, it’s a relief to see them compete again. It was painful to see them last year.

The same was said about the 2020 Red Sox.

Both teams reached the off-season a year before they were expected.

It’s not an uncommon phrase to say over the last 20 years, but the Red Sox and Patriots are winners again.

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