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The Patriots are the NFL’s team of the decade, and it’s not even close

With five Super Bowl trips, three championships, 10 division titles *and* nine playoff byes, the Patriots’ success during the 2010s was unprecedented by almost any measure.

Patriots QB Tom Brady yells, holding up the Lombardi Trophy, with coach Bill Belichick clapping in the background after Super Bowl 51 win
Tom Brady and Bill Belichick combined for five Super Bowl appearances and three wins in the 2010s.

In the last decade, only the Buccaneers and Browns failed to play a game during the NFL’s Wild Card Weekend. That accomplishment encapsulated those two teams’ futility: they combined for 101-219 record, a winning percentage of .316, and just two winning seasons from 2010 through 2019.

A third team nearly joined them, though there was nothing futile about the Patriots.

Unlike the Browns and Bucs — who have playoff droughts dating back to 2002 and 2007, respectively — the Patriots made the postseason every year of the 2010s. They were so good that they earned a bye in each of the last nine posteasons, never playing until the Divisional Round.

It could have been 10 straight, but the 12-4 Patriots were kicked out of the No. 2 seed in the AFC by a Week 17 loss to the Dolphins. This year, they have to be happy with their 11th straight AFC East title.

The Patriots won 125 regular-season games during the 2010s, and were one of five NFL teams to average double-digit victories per season. New England appeared in more Super Bowls (5) and won more championships (3) than the other four franchises combined, with this season’s playoffs still to come.

Best NFL teams of the 2010s

Team W-L Win % Playoffs Super Bowls Titles
Team W-L Win % Playoffs Super Bowls Titles
Patriots 125-35 0.781 10 5 3
Packers 102-56-2 0.644 8 1 1
Steelers 102-57-1 0.641 6 1 0
Seahawks 100-59-1 0.628 8 2 1
Saints 100-60 0.625 6 0 0
Source: Pro Football Reference

The Patriots were never not in contention during the last decade. Their list of records from the 2010s (some even dating back before the decade began) is staggering:

  • 11 consecutive division titles
  • 8 straight AFC Championship Games
  • Double-digit wins for 17 straight seasons. The only time in that span that they didn’t win the division was 2008, when they won 11 games despite Tom Brady missing the entire season.
  • 13 seasons of 12 wins or more, tied with the 49ers for the most seasons since the NFL/AFL merger in 1970. And all 13 of those seasons came in the last 17 years, including nine this decade. Last season, the Patriots slacked and only won 11 games, then made up for their transgression by winning the Super Bowl.
  • 125 regular-season wins in the 2010s, the third-most in any 10-year period in NFL history. They only trail other Patriots teams, from 2003-12 and from 2007-16.

That’s a lot of records, and that doesn’t even include their Super Bowl prowess. If it feels like the Patriots are inevitable, it’s because they are, and have been.

In the Super Bowl era, only 1967-76 Raiders have had a higher winning percentage over a 10-year stretch than the Brady-Belichick Patriots.

Best 10-year winning percentage, NFL history

Team Years W L T Win %
Team Years W L T Win %
Raiders 1967-76 108 25 7 0.796
Patriots 2003-12 126 34 0 0.788
Patriots 2007-16 126 34 0 0.788
Raiders 1968-77 106 27 7 0.782
Patriots 2010-19 125 35 0 0.781
Patriots 2004-13 124 36 0 0.775
Patriots 2006-15 124 36 0 0.775
49ers 1989-98 123 37 0 0.769
Patriots 2002-11 123 37 0 0.769
Patriots 2008-17 123 37 0 0.769
Patriots 2009-18 123 37 0 0.769
Source: Pro Football Reference

The Browns 84.9 percent of their games from during Otto Graham’s 10-year career, but the first four years of that span (1946-49) were in the AAFC, before Cleveland joined the NFL. The Browns’ best 10-year NFL winning percentage was .742 (1950-59), worse than 10 different 10-year runs by the Belichick-Brady Patriots.

Home, sweet home

Getting the bye week has been a big factor in New England’s postseason success. It not only pushes the Patriots through to the Divisional Round, but it gives them at least one home game, usually in the frigid cold.

The Belichick-Brady Patriots were dominant at home during the 2010s, going 69-11 at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough during the regular season. They were 6-2 this season, with their two losses coming in their final three games in New England. A Week 14 loss to the Chiefs snapped a string of 21 straight home wins by the Patriots that included the postseason, tied for the third-longest streak in NFL history. (They tied the 2002-05 Patriots. This is not a new development for New England).

This decade, the Patriots are 12-2 at home in the postseason, with their last playoff loss in New England coming after the 2012 season. This season, they’ll put a streak of nine straight home playoff wins on the line against the Titans this Saturday. Combining regular seasons and postseasons in the 2010s, the Patriots are an astonishing 81-13 (.862) at home. That’s 17 more home wins than the Packers, who had the next-best home record during the decade at 64-19-2.

The key to beating the Patriots in the postseason — aside from having Eli Manning — is to get them on the road. At home, the Belichick-Brady Patriots are 20-3 throughout their tenure. On the road, they’re just 4-4, and 1-2 this decade.

The 2019 Patriots will be playing in the first round for the first time in 10 years. To get back to the Super Bowl, they will have to win at least one road game, and likely two. They are perhaps more vulnerable right now than they have been at any point in their decade of dominance.

Of course, the Patriots seemed vulnerable at the end of the 2000s, too. Counting out the Patriots has been a fool’s errand for a long, long time.