The New England Patriots cruised to a 13-3 record on their way to the AFC's top seed, but Tim Britton of the Providence Journal uncovered a disquieting fact for Pats fans: the team only played two games against franchises that finished with winning records, and lost them both -- to the Steelers in Pittsburgh and at home against the Giants.
Every other playoff team has played at least four games against winning teams, and all but the Lions have emerged victorious in one (the Giants, it’s worth noting, didn’t beat a team above .500 outside of the Pats).
While it would be easy to jump to conclusions about the Patriots' postseason chances -- every Super Bowl winner since 2000 has played at least five winning teams during the regular season -- this is more a quirk of scheduling than a guaranteed predictor. All but two of the Pats' games came against opponents in the AFC East, AFC West, and NFC East; discounting the Pats, those divisions produced only one team over .500 (the 9-7 Giants).
A soft schedule does not necessarily spell doom, however: the 1999 Rams played just one game against a winning team during the regular season, a loss to the Titans that they avenged in the Super Bowl. If I were a Pats fan, I'd be more concerned about the team's porous defense than their strength of schedule.