The New England Patriots finished the regular season with eight consecutive victories, earning a first-round playoff bye and the AFC's top seed. They have one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history and one of the best coaches ever to walk a sideline. But there are some troublesome warning signs that call into question the legitimacy of New England's record.
According to the Providence Journal, the Patriots did not win a single game against a team with a winning record this season. They played just two such games and lost both. By contrast, the league's other top teams -- the New Orleans Saints, Green Bay Packers, Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers -- respectively have six, five, six and four wins against above-.500 clubs.
Regular season success against winning teams does not necessarily equate to playoff triumph -- as the Journal noted, the Patriots were 7-1 against winning teams last season before falling to the New York Jets in the divisional round. And the Patriots have beaten a remarkable amount of .500 teams (seven), including victories against the Chargers, Raiders, Broncos, Eagles, Cowboys and Jets twice.
Their lack of any elite regular season wins does not necessarily doom the Patriots. Not if they start beating winning teams in the playoffs, at least.