Whenever the AFC East is previewed, everybody has the New England Patriots always winning this division and they always do. In 2016, they won the AFC East for the fifteenth time in seventeen seasons under Bill Belichick and clinched a first-round bye for the sixth straight season, absolutely remarkable. The 2016 campaign was different at the beginning for the Patriots. They were without Brady for the first four games as he was serving a suspension. Let’s recap how they got to Houston.
Week One: At Arizona– This was the Patriots first time playing in Arizona since winning their fourth Super Bowl and this was also the first time since 2001 that a quarterback not named Tom Brady was under center. It was the NFL debut of Jimmy Garoppolo, the potential heir apparent to Brady when he decides to retire and call it a career. The one thing I’ve always said about the Patriots is that you know what to expect with Brady on the field. He’s throwing it as much as he can and mixing it up. Without him, you have to be prepared to expect the unexpected. Jimmy G came out firing and Bill coached to his strengths. The defense made some big plays as well and took away the explosive plays of John and Juron Brown. Arizona moved the ball down the field and missed a field goal that would have given them the lead. A very impressive win without Brady, Gronk or Rob Ninkovich.
Week Three: Vs Houston– The Patriots entered this one at 2-0 and heading into the third game of the season, they were down to their third string quarterback, rookie Jacoby Brissett. Brady was still suspended and Jimmy G injured his shoulder the week before and was ruled out for this game. So, how would the Patriots look in this one? They altered their gameplan to complement Brissett and the defense pitched a shutout. The Texans were so bad in this game that they didn’t even cross the 50-yard line. These early stretch of games showed just how great Bill Belichick truly is and I was claiming to give him coach of the year now. He was still able to win three straight games without key components of the football team.
Week Five: At Cleveland– Now, I bet you are reading this and you’re saying to yourself that’s it’s the Browns so what’s so significant about it? I’ll tell you why: Tom Brady returned from his suspension and made his regular season debut. The revenge tour was set to begin and everyone wondered how he’d be considering he missed the first four games and he was a quarterback entering his age 39 season. Have you not seen his workout regimen? He always keeps himself in shape and he had a huge game in Cleveland.
Week Eight: At Buffalo– The Patriots were rolling right now. They entered this game with a 6-1 record and they faced the team that handed them their only loss up to this point. The difference is when they first met, Brissett was quarterbacking the team and the Patriots were shut out. Things were a lot different now and Brady once again continued his hot start and dominance of the Buffalo Bills. This was also the game where we saw Rob Gronkowski set the franchise record for most touchdowns caught by a tight end with 69.
Week Thirteen: Vs Los Angeles– Another struggling opponent you’ll say once again but this game was historic for one of the best players in NFL history and arguably the greatest Patriot. With a 26-10 win over the Rams, Tom Brady surpassed Peyton Manning for the most wins by a quarterback with 201. Remarkable for a guy that’s seemingly done it all.
Week Fifteen: At Denver– This has been a place of horrors for Tom Brady. He’s only won twice in Denver and this was the Patriots first trip to Denver since their loss in the AFC Title Game in January of 2016. This was a much different looking Broncos team they were facing and they got their revenge. Their defense held the Broncos offense to a field goal only.
Week Seventeen: At Miami- Miami, Florida hasn’t been too kind to the Patriots as of late. They’ve lost their last three games there and usually, they are resting everyone up around this time, but they had a lot to play for. With a win or an Oakland Raiders loss, the road to the Super Bowl would travel through Foxboro and the Pats would have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and the top overall seed. They dominated the Dolphins on route to a 14-2 record. In the twelve games that Brady played in, he won eleven of them.