Welcome to Revenge Week at SB Nation NFL, where we are celebrating the dish that’s best served cold. You can keep up with all our latest revenge content here.
No team in the league has conjured more ill will than Bill Belichick’s. New England’s regular success and history of maybe-kinda-sorta-probably cheating has bred the type of contempt usually deserved for Cobra Kai, canker sores, and people who cook french fries in an oven instead of a deep fryer.
Beating the Patriots isn’t just adding a notch to the win column; it’s an affirmation that man can defeat machine — that if I can change, and you can change ... EVERYBODY can change.
But beating Tom Brady means more to some teams than others. For the rest of the AFC East, it’s an opportunity to stab back at the oppressor who’s won 15 of the division’s last 16 titles. For the Texans, Steelers, and Ravens, it’s the chance to erase some prior postseason heartache while staking a claim at the top of the AFC.
And if you’re the Giants and it’s the Super Bowl, it’s just part of a rich tradition and/or malevolent witch’s curse.
Who has the most to prove in their quest for revenge against the Pats in 2019? Here are the 13 teams slated to take part in Tom Brady’s “never gonna retire” tour this fall, separated by how badly they want to dismantle New England.
No meaningful history and a, uh, limited chance of victory
- Cincinnati Bengals (Week 15)
- Washington (Week 5)
The Bengals are 0-7 in the playoffs since the Patriots won their first Super Bowl. None of those losses have come against New England because Bill Belichick typically spends extra for the Comfort Plus version of the postseason and warps into the Divisional Round instead.
Washington’s going to be facing Belichick with either a rookie quarterback (Dwayne Haskins) or some MechaShiva combination of Case Keenum and Colt McCoy behind center. Since the Patriots are a team that somehow lost to the 2018 versions of Blake Bortles, Matthew Stafford, and Ryan Tannehill, that might work out for Washington.
We beat Tom Brady in the Super Bowl, so ...
- New York Giants (Week 6)
- Philadelphia Eagles (Week 11)
Carson Wentz missed his first opportunity to face the Patriots when he sat out Super Bowl 52 and watched Nick Foles earn MVP honors in a performance scientists are still trying to crack. Even if he loses in November, he’ll still have the warming comfort of the fact his teammates once made a bunch of Massholes angry in February 2018.
Giving Eli Manning one more primetime shot to bask in the glory of the team he’s somehow beaten twice with the NFL title on the line is a total slam dunk for an otherwise bleak Giants franchise. I can’t wait for GM Dave Gettleman to decree rookie Daniel Jones as his starter three days beforehand.
No meaningful history, but a decent chance of leaving Foxborough with a win
- Dallas Cowboys (Week 12)
The Patriots became the first team since the Cowboys to win three Super Bowls in a four-year span back in 2005, which makes them a bit like New England’s dynastic predecessor.
Belichick resumed his duties as the Patriots’ defensive playcaller when former de facto coordinator Brian Flores left to become the Dolphins’ head coach this year, so that means he’s going to be the one to figure out how to stop Ezekiel Elliott with what was one of the league’s least impressive run defenses last season.
Beating the Patriots would be an instant boost to the Cowboys’ credibility — a must for a team with only a single playoff win in the Elliott-Dak Prescot era.
The Belichick Bowl
- Cleveland Browns (Week 8)
Belichick takes on the franchise that fired him back in 1996. There would be a lot more drama here if the Browns weren’t 1-6 in their last seven games against the Patriots (and 2-6 overall against their former coach). Cleveland’s recent ascension should make this one a lot more fun — especially if Baker Mayfield finds a new reason to feel slighted in the process.
The former Patriots assistant
- Houston Texans (Week 13)
Belichick’s impressive record against former assistants and players took a major hit in 2018 when Matt Patricia and Mike Vrabel each beat him by double digits. Bill O’Brien was unable to capitalize on that trend, however. Last year’s Week 1 loss to the Patriots dropped him to 0-5 against his former boss. He’ll ride Deshaun Watson into his next attempt to dethrone New England on Sunday Night Football matchup this December, assuming Watson hasn’t been flattened like a papier-mache sculpture behind Houston’s eternally rebuilding offensive line before then.
The team that actually hangs with the Patriots in the playoffs
- Baltimore Ravens (Week 9)
The Ravens have a rock solid 2-2 record against New England in the postseason and managed to drive a pair of massive scars deep into Belichick’s heart in those losses.
This extra gear isn’t available in the regular season, where Baltimore is 1-8 against the Patriots all-time (average margin of victory in those losses? 12.4 points). The good news for the Ravens is their only non-playoff win over New England eventually gave way to a postseason win in Foxborough. Two weeks later, they won their last Super Bowl championship.
The division rivals
- Miami Dolphins (Weeks 2 and 17)
- Buffalo Bills (Weeks 4 and 16)
- New York Jets (Weeks 3 and 7)
Of these three, only the Dolphins have won an AFC East title since 2002. Only the Jets have beaten the Patriots in the playoffs since 1982. But they each see New England twice per year and are guaranteed at least one influx of Pats fans per season — especially in Miami.
Each team has its own kicker for wanting revenge. For the Dolphins, it’s a chance for Flores to prove the student has become the master by knocking off his former boss, even in the midst of an epic overhaul. For the Jets, it’s for a return to a simpler time when Rex Ryan could beat Bill Belichick in a playoff game and the portmanteau “buttfumble” was merely a glean in some twisted linguist’s eye.
And for the Bills, it’s for the chance to jump-start their rebuild, justify all the work the front office put into the roster this offseason, and drown western New York in party liquors. So many party liquors.
We got so mad about last year’s playoff loss we traded the guy responsible for it
- Kansas City Chiefs (Week 14)
The Chiefs looked to have their first Super Bowl appearance since 1969 wrapped up last January. Defensive back Charvarius Ward hauled in a tipped pass intended for Rob Gronkowski to seemingly give Kansas City the ball with a 28-24 lead and only 61 seconds left in the AFC title game, sending an already frenzied crowd at Arrowhead Stadium into Beatlemania-style apoplexy.
And then the referees piped up to accurately point out that outside linebacker Dee Ford had lined up in the neutral zone.
Five yards and a first down for the visitors. Two touchdowns and one overtime later, the Patriots were back in the Super Bowl.
The Chiefs were not happy about this. First came a proposal to NFL owners to ensure both teams would be guaranteed a possession in overtime, thus eliminating a world where Patrick Mahomes can lead his team back to a tie game in regulation and never see the ball again before losing (it failed to pass). Then came the trade; rather than pay Ford eight figures to serve as a painful reminder of how close we were to running Rams-Chiefs back again in the Super Bowl, Kansas City decided to ship him off to the 49ers instead.
Brutal. And now the Chiefs have to head back to New England, and a well-lubricated Gillette Stadium crowd, for a Week 14 game that should play a role in determining playoff seeding.
The guys who hate New England more than anyone
- Pittsburgh Steelers (Week 1)
The Steelers beat the Patriots at Heinz Field last year, which turned out to be the equivalent of conquering Kamchatka before the guy who stole your girlfriend picks up the Risk board and beats you into a puddle with it. Pittsburgh’s win in Week 15 rekindled the club’s playoff aspirations, only to see that flame snuffed out by a Week 16 loss to the Saints that allowed the Ravens to win the AFC North. Weeks later, New England was left holding the Lombardi Trophy while all the Steelers could do is figure out what to do with Antonio Brown (the answer, eventually, was trade him for mid-round draft picks).
2019’s meeting with the Pats will be Pittsburgh’s 16th since Tom Brady took over as quarterback in New England. Over that span, the Steelers are just 4-11 and have seen their postseasons end with a terse Belichick handshake at the AFC Championship Game three times. They’ve lost games to the backup quarterback prowess of Drew by-god Bledsoe and poorly realized catch rules alike:
They’ve played each other so often that no amount of shenanigans could possibly shake Mike Tomlin. And also, he thinks the Pats are “assholes.”
Steelers HC Mike Tomlin on Patriots: "We spotted those assholes a day and a half...so be it. We'll be ready for their ass." pic.twitter.com/MB4kLwVgIz— Rich Hill (@PP_Rich_Hill) January 16, 2017
With plenty to prove in the post-Brown, post-Le’Veon Bell era, no single win would be as satisfying as toppling New England in New England. The last time that happened was against Matt Cassel in 2008. Two months later, the Steelers won the Super Bowl.