SPORTS

The Patriots’ road to the Super Bowl

 

 The New England Patriots remained No. 2 in this week’s NFL Power Rankings, but are still considered the Super Bowl favorites.

According to ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI), the Patriots have a 40 percent chance to win the Super Bowl this season, more than double the chance of any other NFL team.

The Patriots have won their division for an NFL-record eighth straight season, clinched a first round bye for an NFL-record seventh straight season, and can clinch the 1-seed in the AFC with a win or a Raiders loss in Week 17.

If that happens, the Patriots would become the first franchise to earn a top seed six times since seeding began in 1990, with all six occurring in the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick era.

Here’s a look at the Patriots path to the Super Bowl:

The rest of the field

FPI gives the Patriots a 63 percent chance to reach the Super Bowl. No other NFL team has more than a 36 percent chance (Falcons).

The Raiders (Matt McGloin), Texans (Tom Savage) and Dolphins (Matt Moore or Ryan Tannehill) are all likely to start quarterbacks who will be making their playoff debuts.

While Ben Roethlisberger (17 starts) and Alex Smith (five starts) both have playoff experience, both lost their only playoff starts against the Patriots. Tom Brady (31 starts) has more career playoff starts than the other five teams’ potential starting quarterbacks combined.

The Patriots are 6-0 in the Brady-Belichick era (since 2001) against opposing quarterbacks making their first or second career playoff start. New England won those games by an average of 16.8 points.

Importance of 1-seed

New England reached the Super Bowl in four of the previous five seasons in which it had home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs, winning it all twice.

Tom Brady is 4-1 in AFC Championship games at home (2-3 on the road). He has lost each of his last three AFC Championship games on the road, including last season in Denver.

Overall, Brady is 15-3 at home in the playoffs, with two of those losses coming to the Ravens, who are eliminated from playoff contention this season. Brady has a losing record (3-4) on the road in the postseason.