(1.) If the coverage leading into Sunday night feels more like that of a UFC title fight than a primetime football game Youth Devin McCourty Jersey
, it’s not by accident — but it’s also not entirely by choice.A byproduct of the NFL’s incompetence with regard to having its two biggest stars face off twice per decade is that four years of Aaron Rodgers vs. Tom Brady media coverage is needlessly jammed into a single week — or six days in the case of this year’s go-around. It’s almost understandable. With so much time passing between Packers-Patriots contests, very little meat is left on the content-bone. Rosters are thoroughly turned over. Context derived from the teams’ most recent battles isn’t pertinent, making it impossible to establish a chronology of any real substance. Narratives simply aren’t allowed to develop organically. The NFL media machine — aside from a handful of excellent local reporters and analysts — has no choice but to capitalize on the moment. As a result, the Rodgers vs. Brady motif doesn’t just become the ripest and the lowest-hanging of the low-hanging fruit — it becomes the only hanging fruit. Yet, if you give the tree a good shake, you’ll find that the NFL hasn’t just missed out on the opportunity for one or two more duels between historic quarterbacks, but that they’ve has deprived football fans of a showcase between the two most successful organizations from each conference since the turn of the century. It’s true. Since Bill Belichick took the reigns in Foxborough in 2000, the Patriots have been historically good to the point where it renders the accomplishments of other franchises undistinguished. But, over that same span, the Green Bay Packers have been the cream of the crop in the NFC.From 2000 to 2017, the Packers have an NFC-leading 178 regular season wins, the most playoff trips in the conference (13), as well as the most playoff wins (27). From 2006 — the first year of current head coach Mike McCarthy — through 2017, Green Bay leads the NFC in wins (121), postseason trips (9) White Cordarrelle Patterson Jersey
, playoff games (18), and Conference Championship Game appearances (4). Of course, they also added a Super Bowl in 2010.The Patriots’ totals in these departments between 2000 and 2017 are obviously ridiculous. They led the NFL with:214 regular season wins15 postseason trips37 postseason games12 Conference Championship Game appearances8 Super Bowl trips5 Super Bowl titlesFor the purpose of symmetry, here are those Patriots totals between 2006-2017 (still all league-leading, or course): 151 regular season wins11 postseason trips26 postseason games9 Conference Championship Game appearances5 Super Bowl trips2 Super Bowl titles (tied with the Giants for the most since 2006)(2.) Perhaps the most fascinating components of the Packers’ success are the methods and organizational characteristics that have allowed them to sustain it — elements and approaches that bear a striking resemblance to what Bill Belichick has established in New England.One such characteristic is stability. While there are certainly a countless number of variables, and the causation is likely a bit cyclical, there is a strong correlation between winning teams and franchises that maintain long stretches of stability at their GM (or primary player personnel decision-maker) position and head coach positions. The 11 organizations to have won a Super Bowl between 2000 and 2017 averaged 169.09 wins over those 18 seasons, and just 4.36 GM-head coach combinations. The other 21 franchises averaged 132.27 wins and 8 GM-head coach combinations.Between 2000 and 2017, no NFC team had fewer such combinations than Green Bay (four), and only three teams in the league had fewer. One of those teams was the Bengals, who haven’t employed a GM in the history of their organization. The other two were Pittsburgh (two combinations), and the Patriots (Belichick).(3.) A tangible approach that each organization has taken towards roster construction has been the organic growth of the middle and upper class of their rosters. Between 2011-2017, no other team in football had more “homegrown” players — ones drafted or signed as UDFAs and developed with the organization — with cap hits that were at or greater than 1% of that year’s league salary cap. The Packers had 96 such cap hits over that 18-season span. The Patriots ranked fifth on that list with 70. The league average was 50.(4.) The number of draft picks since 2000 to be signed to multi-year extensions before or directly after the expiration of their rookie deals:Packers — 35 total, 18 from draft rounds 1-3.Patriots — 26 total, 12 from draft rounds 1-3.One could speculate that the Patriots would’ve been closer in the total number of these “homegrown” middle and upper class players Youth Julian Edelman Jersey
, but they simply didn’t need to re-sign as many due to consistently planning ahead for the departure of players by developing depth through the draft and undrafted free agency. The Patriots have also been the most trade-happy organization in football in since Belichick’s arrival.(5.) With Patriots right guard Shaq Mason ruled out for Sunday’s contest, it marks the first time since his week eight of his rookie season that he hasn’t been active. Mason — who has been active for 54 of his first 56 career regular season games —is one third of a “homegrown” trio on the interior that includes left guard Joe Thuney and center David Andrews. It’s a unit that has been one of the more consistently-underrated in football over the past three seasons. Sunday will be just the third game since the start of 2016 in which all three won’t be on the field together.With the signing of Andrews to a three-year extension last May (a deal that might be among the best values in football), and with Mason inking a deal with $23.5 million guaranteed to keep him in Foxborough through 2023, the Patriots have two legs of their interior trio under contract through 2020. Joe Thuney, who will be eligible to negotiate a contract after the completion of this season, will carry a cap hit of roughly $2.22 million in 2019 after qualifying for the Proven Performance Escalator (PPE) — a provision in the CBA that bumps the fourth year rookie salary of a player drafted after the second round up to the level of that year’s lowest restricted free agency tender. Players can earn the PPE by participating in 35% of offensive or defensive snaps in two of his first three seasons, or by participating in 35% of all of those snaps over his first three years. According to overthecap.com, no 2016 draftee how was taken between rounds three and seven has participated in a high percentage of his unit’s snaps. The former NC State standout has participated has a 99.7% three-year average after playing in 99.6% in 2016, 99.5% in 2017, and 100% so far this year.Follow Brian Phillips on Twitter — @BPhillips_SB ATLANTA (AP) — There's something surgical about the Patriots‘ dynasty that has made the rest of the NFL reel for nearly two decades.They are 6-3 in Super Bowls in Bill Belichick's reign and with Tom Brady doing the clutch work. Yet the overall points for those games, dating to 2002, stand at 215 for New England, 201 for the opposition.No blowouts. They began this unprecedented run using a bruising defense that turned the Rams' Greatest Show on Turf into a tentative outfit that at times looked intimidated 17 years ago. On Sunday night, they brought it all full circle with a masterful defensive performance that humbled the Rams once more, even more so.The Patriots take down opponents in the most painful ways Youth Deatrich Wise Jr Jersey
, whether in shootouts like against Carolina and Atlanta, or in comebacks — Atlanta again, and Seattle. While it's always foolish to get into a tit-for-tat scoring binge with Brady, the 13-3 victory over Los Angeles proved the Pats can do the dirty work, win in the trenches and still survive.It's maddening for the rest of the NFL. It's maddening for so much of America that wants to see someone — anyone else — shut down this show. It leads to Patriots haters noting that one of the worst officiating errors in NFL history cost the rightful NFC champions, the Saints, a shot at New England. Or that coin tosses have handed the Patriots the ball in a Super Bowl and a conference title game overtime, and eventually they were lifting the Lombardi Trophy.No matter where football fans outside the New England base turn, however, the finish often hurts.Why?Wide receiver Chris Hogan, who has been to Super Bowls in all three of his seasons in New England, explains it well."We have been in these situations so many times before in big games and we don't really blink," Hogan said. "We practice these situations, we run these situations, we know how to execute in these situations — that is what it comes down to. Four-minute drives and trying to end a football game Youth Tom Brady Jersey
, take care of the ball, run blocking and doing all of the fundamentals when it really counts. And we have been in this situation before and it just helps."The Patriots have been in every position before. So when they need to rely on Brady to light up the scoreboard, they can. And if the game environment calls for grinding it out, they can.One thing they never do is back off. In their losses to the Giants and Eagles in the Super Bowl, the Patriots remained aggressive. So did the opponent, though, and New York and Philadelphia simply made more key plays. Perhaps only one more key play, but that was enough.When the Seahawks and Falcons lifted off the accelerator — or made unwise strategic moves — New England swooped in.The decisive drive in the fourth quarter Sunday night was typical of the clinical manner in which they keep winning. Sloppy, particularly on third downs, and even a tad frustrated by the 3-3 score, they put together a classic drive: five plays, four of them passes, for 69 yards, capped by rookie Sony Michel's 2-yard touchdown run.Brady went to his meal tickets and they ate up an LA defense that had been relatively staunch. An 18-yard pass to Rob Gronkowski, followed by 13 yards to game MVP Julian Edelman.Then a 7-yarder to Rex Burkhead led to a play that causes every defensive coordinator to lose sleep: Gronk going deep and overpowering as well as outreaching defenders — in this case double coverage — for 29 yards to the 2.Once Michel scored White Lawrence Guy Jersey
, it seemed inevitable the Rams would find nothing but disappointment the rest of the way.Leave it to Gronkowski to sum up what at some points looked like a so-so season for the Patriots. Yet there they were, at the summit again."I'll tell you this, it was the most satisfying year I've ever been a part of," said the star tight end who just might have played his last game; he's contemplating retirement, as he did last year before returning. "How we came together, the obstacles we had to overcome, the grind from the beginning of training camp to now. That was our identity; wear the other team out."We weren't making big, flashy plays all the time … but we stuck together, we grinded, ran the ball."Now we're Super Bowl champions, we're world champions."And the rest of the NFL writhes in pain.