The New England Patriots, by their standards, had an awful season in 2020. Bill Belichick and the Pats missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008, and they had their first losing season since 2000. That isn’t all that happened, though. They also watched two division rivals become two of the strongest teams in the AFC in the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins. Now, thanks to the Houston Texans, the Patriots’ worst nightmare has potentially come true.
The Patriots struggled in 2020 while the Bills and Dolphins excelled
Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots have been one of the most dominant dynasties of all-time. They only missed the playoffs twice from 2001 through 2019 and won an AFC East division title in all but two seasons during those years. They also ultimately won six Super Bowl titles, made three other Super Bowl appearances, and went to 13 total AFC Championship Games.
However, after seeing Tom Brady go to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during last offseason, the Patriots had their worst season in about 20 years in 2020. New England ultimately went 7-9 and missed the playoffs. Their offense was also atrocious, as it only scored 20.4 points per game, which was 27th in the NFL.
Their downward trajectory came during a season where the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins both proved to be two of the hottest up-and-coming teams in the AFC. The Bills went 13-3 and clinched the No. 2 seed in the AFC, while the Dolphins went 10-6, their first winning season since 2016 and second since 2008.
Now, while the Dolphins and Bills have already proven to be two teams that can ultimately take the Patriots’ dynasty down, Miami has an excellent chance to get even better. They have the Texans to thank for it, too.
The Houston Texans lost to the Tennesse Titans
After two consecutive trips to the playoffs and four trips in five seasons, the Houston Texans were one of the worst teams in the NFL this year, as they went 4-12. However, they gave the AFC South champion Tennessee Titans a tough game in Week 17.
It appeared that the Titans, who needed to win to clinch that division title, were going to blow the Texans out. They took a commanding 31-15 lead in the third quarter. However, the Texans came all the way back and took a 35-31 lead early in the fourth. Tennessee then re-took the lead, 38-35, late in the fourth, but the Texans drove down the field and tied it with 18 seconds left.
It then looked as if the game was going to go into overtime, but on first down, Ryan Tannehill found A.J. Brown for a deep pass that ultimately set up a 37-yard game-winning field goal. Tennessee won 41-38.
There was a lot riding on that game, as the Titans won the AFC South division title over the Indianapolis Colts with the win. However, the result of the game was also a crushing blow to Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots.
The Texans’ win was a crushing blow to the New England Patriots
In September 2019, the Dolphins traded offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil to the Texans. Included in that deal was a 2021 first-round pick that the Texans sent to the Dolphins.
Had the Texans won against the Titans, the Dolphins would have been picking eighth, according to Sporting News. Since the Texans lost, though, the Dolphins — already a winning team — now incredibly have the No. 3 pick in the 2021 NFL draft.
This means that the Patriots didn’t just see the Bills and Dolphins have good seasons this year, but the Dolphins now have a chance to build a juggernaut. Many people expect Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields to go No. 1 and No. 2, but the Dolphins don’t need a quarterback since they have Tua Tagovailoa. So, who will they get?
Multiple mock drafts have the Dolphins selecting LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase with the third pick. He didn’t play in 2020, but in 2019, Chase was a big reason why the Tigers won the national championship. He caught 84 passes for 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns. This addition could potentially make Miami’s offense one of the most explosive in the NFL and could set them up to have success for years to come.
The New England Patriots might have a bounce-back year in 2021. I mean, they do have the greatest coach of all-time. However, with how strong the Bills have looked this year and how strong the Dolphins can potentially become, it will be very, very hard for the Pats to get back atop the AFC East anytime soon.