We’ve checked the NFL calendar, researched league history and perused the TV listings deep into February and confirmed that the New England Patriots’ season will definitely end on Sunday.

We’re absolutely certain this time. No caveats. No what-ifs. The Patriots are done on Sunday. It’s a lock.

Yes, we’ve said it was over before, starting with when they embarrassed themselves in Jacksonville and Detroit. But please also remember that when they went 4-0 in October, we reminded you Bill Belichick treats the first month of the regular season like an extension of the preseason.

When Belichick traded for troubled Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon after the Jaguars debacle, we acknowledged his desperation to find a legitimate weapon for Tom Brady, whose career was dangling off the edge of a cliff.

What harm could taking a chance on a game-breaking talent like Gordon do?

When Brady favorite Julian Edelman returned from his four-game PED suspension, we pointed out it was no coincidence the aging quarterback was returning to his MVP form, as was the vaunted New England offense, which averaged 35.5 points per game during a six-game winning streak.

Given a bye in Week 11 to ponder another road shellacking at Tennessee, however, we concluded home-field advantage in the playoffs was New England’s only hope for reaching a third Super Bowl in a row. The passing game was a shell of itself. The running game revolved around Sony Michel, a first-round bust. The defense couldn’t stop a nosebleed.

A fluke loss in Miami, where, admittedly, all of the Patriots’ fluke losses happen, not only exposed how washed up Rob Gronkowski is, but probably cost them home field.

We confirmed home field was definitely out the window (unless Kansas City choked) after another road loss, this time in Pittsburgh. A franchise that prided itself on peaking for the playoffs was getting worse by the week this time.

Then came the last straw. In the least shocking of developments, Josh Gordon was suspended. Brady’s only viable downfield threat, gone for the season. The already pedestrian passing game was surely doomed. The letdown was bound to submerge the entire locker room because we all knew Belichick and the dynasty were hanging on by their fingernails if they were desperate enough to entrust Brady’s legacy to someone like Gordon.

Left with no choice by an impotent passing game, the offense started emphasizing the run. Our assessment was that since Gronk can’t get open anymore, might as well make him a sixth lineman, right? That line needs all the help it can get.

Bludgeoning Buffalo and the Jets at home proved nothing other than how those AFC East tomato cans had given up. The Patriots would be sorry they didn’t take care of business earlier in the month for home field (unless the Chiefs choke).

More bad news to start the playoffs. The hottest team in football, the San Diego, uh, Los Angeles Chargers were coming to Foxborough and they were bringing their 8-1 road record with them. They’d never lost outside of L.A., you know? All signs pointed to this finally being Philip Rivers’ year, and we warned you that the Chargers could kill the dynasty on its own home turf.

The Patriots were kind enough to expose the Chargers for the jet-lagged pretenders they were by halftime. It gave us a head start on wondering how anyone could expect a team that was 3-5 on the road this season to beat the next-great quarterback in Arrowhead Stadium, where they make so much noise the Chiefs don’t even need to play defense.

MVP-to-be Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs were the Patriots’ worst nightmare. Oh, sure, New England could shorten the game for a half by continuing to run the ball with Michel and forcing a couple of three-and-outs on defense. But what would happen when it all inevitably collapsed? You didn’t really think Brady, Edelman and Gronkowski had enough left to pull it out.

You didn’t really believe the least dominant regular season team of the Tom Brady era would be the first to win a conference championship on the road in over a decade, did you?

Of course you did.

So, could you clue us in to why the New England Patriots would have the gall to claim they’re underdogs?


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