By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
The Patriots don’t have a choice. They’ve made a very painful bed for themselves, as it’s on to the Titans in the AFC Wild Card round. It’s the first time in a decade that the Pats, their fans, and the New England media get a one-week breather to hype up a divisional matchup. It’s far from ideal and makes the road through the 2019 playoffs as daunting as Bill Belichick and the Patriots have ever faced.
Linebacker Kyle Van Noy, however, put an optimistic spin on the situation. The Patriots have to beat the Titans in the wild card game on Saturday in Foxboro, then likely win road games in Kansas City and Baltimore to get to Miami for Super Bowl LIV. But Van Noy sees it as an opportunity to get back at teams that have recently gotten the best of them.
“We have a chance to go on a revenge tour, and what better way to start off with Tennessee, who we lost to last year,” Van Noy said. “Big motivation – we weren’t happy about our performance and they’re coming into our house. What better way to get it started for the playoffs Saturday at 8:15 in Gillette.
“I mean, I hope it’s going – I hope, I know it’s going to be rockin’, and I’m excited for our players to perform and play Patriot football.”
It wouldn’t be your standard run-of-the-mill “revenge tour” if the Patriots somehow end up in the Super Bowl. It would be the ultimate one. It would be their first Super Bowl berth without getting a first-round bye under Bill Belichick. And since 2000 they’ve only beaten three teams in the playoffs that beat them in the regular season: the 2001 Rams, the 2004 Steelers, and the 2006 Jets. They’ve lost their six other revenge opportunities.
The Titans don’t count in that specific criteria, but their convincing 34-10 win over the Pats last year is what Van Noy alluded to on Monday. Tennessee fell last time they came to New England in a playoff game when the Pats beat them 35-14 in the 2017 divisional round, but they had Marcus Mariota at quarterbasck and Mike Mularkey at head coach that night.
The Patriots face a projected playoff road on which they’d have to beat three teams that beat them in their previous matchup in order to get to the Super Bowl. They’ve never beaten more than one and haven’t done that at all in 13 years. To say their loss to the Dolphins significantly stacked the odds against them would be an understatement.
But if there’s any team you can’t possibly bury for good against this kind of playoff road, it should be the Patriots. The hope for them is that Van Noy and the rest of the defense takes their revenge plan seriously and that it reflects in their execution. To get that seventh Lombardi, they’re probably going to need it.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.