The New England Patriots season has officially come full circle

Damien Harris #37 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Damien Harris #37 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images) /

It’s an exciting time to be a New England Patriots fan. The team officially ended their one season playoff drought this past weekend, putting an exclamation point on one of the quickest rebuilds we have seen in the modern NFL. Regardless of what happens from here on out, it’s clear that the Patriots are officially back.

And while a playoff spot is certainly worth celebrating, especially considering this team didn’t really enter the season with any expectations, things almost certainly could have been better for New England. Less than a month ago, they were the number one seed in the AFC. And while they probably aren’t the best team in the conference, the Patriots also had the inside track to win the AFC East, but managed to throw that away as well.

Nonetheless, the Patriots will be playing postseason football, which is more than most people were hoping for coming into the season. Despite wrapping up a playoff berth, New England still has some work to do in Week 18 with a difficult trip to Miami on their hands. Winning their final game against the Dolphins ensures that they cannot fall lower than the number 5 seed they currently find themselves in.

In a sense, it feels like the Patriots season has come full circle now. Remember how their season opening contest against the Dolphins went? It was the beginning of an opening stretch of games that were filled with a bevy of mistakes and gaffes. And here were are, with one game left, against the team it all started against. New England has one challenge left, and how they perform could be the difference between a deep playoff run or a quick exit.

The New England Patriots can right their wrongs from earlier this season

Even though New England lost control of the AFC East when they fell to the Buffalo Bills in Week 16, they still could technically end up winning the division. Heck, they still have a chance (albeit, a less than one percent chance) of winning the number one seed in the AFC, although it would require an unprecedented amount of upsets for that to happen. Simply put, only good things could come from beating the Dolphins this upcoming week.

The Week 1 contest was the start of an ugly opening stretch of football from the Patriots. They played better than the Dolphins for the most part, and probably deserved to win. But Damien Harris fumbled the ball inside Miami’s 10 yard line late in the fourth quarter, which allowed the Dolphins to ensure the Mac Jones era in New England started off with a lost.

New England’s outlook could be much different if Harris had managed to hold onto the football in that game. Chances are they are in charge of the AFC East, and would just have to beat Miami to wrap up the division. Instead, they now need to win and hope the New York Jets can somehow find a way to beat the Bills.

Truth be told, the Pats formed a lot of bad habits that took them awhile to shake in their season opening contest. Ball security was an obvious issue, but so was the lack of faith in Jones in the passing game, inconsistent offensive line play, and a secondary that couldn’t figure out how to cover anybody.

Now I’m not saying that one loss to the Dolphins to open the season caused all this, but it simply led to this team stumbling out of the gate. Maybe if they win the opener they have the gusto to not make similar mistakes in close losses to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or Dallas Cowboys that have now proven to be extremely debilitating to this team.

But the New England Patriots now have a chance to right their wrongs. Even if you take out the small possibilities this team has to win the division of the conference, there is a lot on the line for the Pats in this game.

The difference between playing a team like the Kansas City Chiefs or the Bills in the first round seems paramount right now. The Chiefs, despite their early season struggles, still possess one of the most dangerous offenses in the league, and probably wouldn’t be a favorable first round matchup for the Patriots.

Next. No, the Patriots aren't going to sign Antonio Brown. dark

On the other hand, despite losing to the Bills recently, New England has already played them twice, and despite Buffalo having more talent, I can’t seem them outfoxing Bill Belichick and co. for a second time.

That’s why this game, despite seemingly being of little importance, is actually extremely important. The New England Patriots have already clinched a playoff spot, but the job isn’t done just yet. They have one last challenge in front of them before the playoffs, and it’s only fitting it will come against the team that set them off on the wrong foot this season.