Felger & Mazz

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By Tony Massarotti, 98.5 The Sports Hub

Simple question: have the 2018 Patriots already exceeded expectations?

And if you’re answer is yes, will you feel the same way on Monday if the Patriots lose the Super Bowl?

As preposterous as it seems every time we say, write or think it, the Patriots will be playing in their ninth Super Bowl of the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick era on Sunday. The Pats haven’t made this improbable an appearance in the Super Bowl since the 2011 season, which culminated in a loss to the New York Giants.

On the list of Patriots defeats during the Brady-Belichick Era, the second Super Bowl loss to the Giants isn’t among the great disappointments. The Giants held the ball for 38 minutes. The Patriots certainly could have won. But New York was probably the better team at that stage, and the truth is that the Patriots were probably lucky to have been in the Super Bowl at all after Baltimore Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff missed a chip shot field in the final seconds of the AFC Championship game.

And so, again, a question: do the 2018 Patriots deserve to be in this game (yes), and doesn’t that affect expectations and stakes entering Sunday? (Yes again.)

Look, here’s the point: in a manner of speaking, this trip to the Super Bowl is the ultimate cherry-on-the-sundae development for a franchise that has had perhaps single greatest run in American sports history. And yet, for the first time this postseason, the Patriots will take the field on Sunday carrying bigger expectations than they have at any other points this season.

Think about it. In the divisional round, there were many who picked the Pats to lose – we just didn’t know what we were going to get. Then came the trip to Kansas City, which has been a house of horrors for Brady and Belichick over the years. (The Chiefs were favored.) Many of us have expected the Patriots to lose that game from the earliest weeks of the season, when it became apparent that Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs were for real.

Should the Patriots lose the game on Sunday, we will certainly still marvel at the bigger picture. Nine Super Bowl appearances. Five wins. And still the hope for more. But New England would also join the Buffalo Bills, Minnesota Vikings and Denver Broncos as teams to have lost consecutive Super Bowl, and we can all be sure that Belichick has no interest in such company.

So, have these Pats overachieved?

Yes. Absolutely.

But ask us all again on Monday.

You can hear Tony Massarotti weekdays from 2-6 p.m. EST on the Felger & Massarotti program. Follow him on Twitter @TonyMassarotti.