Déjà vu comes quite frequently when discussing the New England Patriots and the Super Bowl. Sunday Feb. 5 will mark the ninth time the Patriots will play in the Super Bowl in their franchise’s history—a National Football League record. It is also the seventh appearance for starting quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick, an NFL record in both positions, respectively.
The Patriots were tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Seattle Seahawks for the odds on favorite to win the Super Bowl at 8-1 before the beginning of the 2016-17 season, according to the Westgate SuperBook in Vegas.
With veteran starters on both the defensive and offensive sides—like cornerback Malcolm Butler and wide receiver Julian Edelman—and with the key offseason pickups of important contributors—like tight end Martellus Bennett and wide receiver Chris Hogan—the Patriots were poised for another long playoff push.
What has really driven the Patriots this year, however, is the “next man up” policy. Of course, while most teams say that they have it, no team embodies the concept more than New England. When Brady was suspended for the first four games of the season, the Patriots went 3-1 during his absence.
Their biggest and most popular target—tight end Rob Gronkowski—went down earlier this season with an injury and was declared out for the season. So during the American Football Conference championship game, Hogan—who only averaged over 17 yards per game receiving this year with only four touchdowns—served to help the team by breaking out with a stellar performance, netting 180 yards receiving and two touchdowns.
The Patriots know how to win and they’ve been doing it for years. And on top of all their success, Brady now can potentially have commissioner Roger Goodell—the man who suspended Brady for the four games in the first place—hand him the Lombardi Trophy.
This may provide an extra asset for the Patriots, for if we’ve learned anything from Rex Ryan’s antics against New England over the years, it’s that you don’t give Brady and Belichick any extra motivation to win a football game. Most of the time, they’ll take advantage of it.