During their Super Bowl run, the New England Patriots faced a number of the NFL’s top defenses, but they also played against some of the worst playoff quarterbacks in recent memory.


There have been many constants among the New England Patriots’ Super Bowl champion teams during the Brady-Belichick era: efficient quarterback play, pass-catching backs, quick slot receivers — and a top-end defense.

The 2017 Patriots have most of these constants, with quarterback Tom Brady still near the top of his game, running backs Dion Lewis and James White proving to be formidable pass-catching threats out of the backfield, and wide receiver Danny Amendola filling in admirably for an injured Julian Edelman in the slot. But the one thing the Patriots do not have is a top-end defense. In fact, the Patriots — per most metrics, including those at Football Outsiders — have one of the worst defenses in the league, even after a stark improvement during the second half of the NFL season.

While Super Bowl champions early in Brady-Belichick era relied heavily on the defense, recent Patriots teams made up for non-elite defenses with stellar offenses — still, even the worst defense on a Super Bowl-winning Patriots team was at least above average that season.

The New England Patriots have lost Super Bowls with bad defenses, but they’ve never won one — until perhaps this Sunday — because in 2017, the Patriots have been blessed with one of the worst group of playoff quarterback opponents in recent memory.

The 2017 NFL Playoffs began with 16 teams. 12 of those teams were led by quarterbacks with quarterback ratings in the top half of the NFL, leaving four teams with quarterbacks in the bottom half of the league — and as luck would have it, the Patriots’ playoff opponents were three of those four teams.

Over the past ten years, every Super Bowl champion faced one-to-two quarterbacks with regular-season quarterback ratings above 100, and an additional one-to-two quarterbacks with QBRs above 90. Only twice has a team faced a quarterback with a quarterback rating under 80 — last year’s Patriots, who beat Brock Osweiler before facing Ben Roethlisberger and NFL MVP Matt Ryan, and the 2012 Wild Card Baltimore Ravens, who defeated rookie Andrew Luck before facing off against Peyton Manning, Brady and Colin Kaepernick.

On the road to Super Bowl LII, the Patriots’ opponents included two quarterbacks with QBRs under 80 — Marcus Mariota and Nick Foles — and one under 85 — Blake Bortles:

Super Bowl Winners QB Opponents - New England Patriots

Patriots Dynasty-deniers can’t blame New England’s playoff success on cheating, but it’s hard to deny that luck played a major role in the Patriots’ latest Super Bowl run.

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About the Author: Chris Wilson

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