We did this last year as a way to shine some optimism after a dark time among the fanbase (the loss to the Titans). At the time, it was just a fun exercise and, considering the Steelers loss was still to come, I'm not sure how much of it I believed in my bones. But this team always confounds in ways you least expect it, so it's always better to err on the side of optimism with these Patriots — no team, perhaps in professional sports, has found more brick walls to break through to continue their amazing run.
So, let's commence with the 2019 version...
Let's fast forward a couple months ...
It's about 10:30 p.m. on Feb. 2 and red, white and blue confetti is being pumped into the air inside Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla. Tom Brady is embracing Julian Edelman. Bill Belichick is pointing at friends down below the podium as he hoists the Lombardi Trophy for an amazing seventh time as Patriots coach, the fourth time in six years, and back-to-back for the first time since '03-04.
On the Internet, the Twittership of the Miserable is spending this euphoric time by going back on the timelines of mediots to find past opinions about how this Patriots team didn't have it — how they were going to come up short, that Super Bowl MVP N'Keal Harry was a bust, Brady was done, had no weapons, and Belichick had lost his personnel fastball — and throwing it back in everyone's face.
It's truly a glorious time for all involved.
But it sure seems like a long way off after Sunday's 28-22 loss to the Texans that was much worse than the score indicated. Belichick lost to Bill O'Brien for the first time. Yup, Teapot got the best of The Hoodie.
After an easy early-season stretch in which most predicted the Patriots would emerge 8-0 (they did), New England lost their two biggest games of the season — at Baltimore, at Houston — and both games were largely over entering the fourth quarter. Two wins over the Eagles and Cowboys look even worse now considering the tailspin both teams are in, to the point that 7-9 might win the NFC East.
Brady can't find anyone to throw to as teams are doubling Edelman, and sticking a defensive back on James White. There's no speed on offense, the Patriots punt more than any team besides the Jets and Bears, and Brady looks like he's going to lose his stuff after every possession. Everything is just hard for the offense.
On defense, the Patriots have largely been stellar but couldn't get off the field against the Ravens and Texans.
So the question remains: How could the Patriots get from this point to celebrating in Miami? What did we not see or get wrong about this team heading into the second week of December (it's even weird to say we have these questions about this team at this time of year)?