The Patriots are back in the Super Bowl for the sixth time since the turn of the century. They have not won the ultimate prize since 2004, but have won 12 games or more in five straight seasons and totaled double-digit victories in a dozen consecutive years.
How did this year’s team earn their spot in the Super Bowl? Let’s take a look.
The Patriots began the year 2-2 and just 1-3 against the spread. They dropped games as favorites in week 1 (at Miami) and week 4 (at Kansas City), and people started hitting the panic button, prematurely declaring the Brady/Belichick-era over.
Those alarmists looked foolish as the Pats went on a seven-game winning streak and improved their record to 9-2. The Pats covered each week during that stretch, three times as underdogs, to move to 8-3 ATS. (Six of the seven games went over the total.)
Then New England lost a squeaker in Green Bay in week 13, 26-21, just missing the cover as four-point dogs. But the Pats won the next three (covering in two) to clinch top spot in the AFC. In a meaningless week 17 home game against Buffalo, New England rested several key starters and lost both SU and ATS.
In the playoffs, the Patriots were lucky to win against Baltimore (35-31) in the Divisional round, and they failed to cover the 7.5-point spread. They looked markedly better last Sunday, butchering both the Colts (45-7) and the number (-7) in the AFC Championship Game.
Overall, the Patriots were 12-4 during the regular season and are 2-0 in the playoffs. But they are just 10-8 ATS and have covered the spread only once in their last four games.
The total has hit the over in ten of New England’s games, while seven have stayed under, and one pushed. However, only one of the last four – and two of the last eight – New England games have gone over.
Against NFC opponents this year, New England went 3-1 straight up and against the spread with thee of the four games staying under.
Historically, the Pats have not been profitable in the Super Bowl. They are 1-4 against the spread with four straight ATS losses. The last four have also stayed under the total. Overall, the underdog has covered six of the last seven Super Bowls while three of the past four games have gone over the total.
New England has done a great job this season featuring a balanced offense. Their passing attack is among the top ten in the NFL, and the running game, while ranking in the middle of the pack, has done the job when called upon. After trying just 13 runs in the Baltimore game, New England gashed the Colts on the ground, running 40 times for 177 yards and holding the ball for nearly 38 minutes. On defense, the Patriots are solid against the run and average versus the pass.
That’s how the Patriots punched their ticket to Arizona. Keep the numbers in mind as news leaks, the spread shifts, and you ponder how to play the Super Bowl.
(Photo credit: Jack Newton (http://www.flickr.com/photos/jdn/10556799426/) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped.)