It’s not unusual for teams and players to embrace the underdog mantra as they start the postseason journey to the Super Bowl, but when the New England Patriots adopted that mentality before the 2018 Divisional Round, it was met with more of a collective groan than an inspired uprising.
After all, at that point, the New England Patriots – a team that for 19 seasons has been armed with arguably the greatest quarterback/coach duo to ever grace the game – had already tied with the Steelers for the most Super Bowl wins by a franchise, and they even entered the season with two more Super Bowl appearances than any other outfit. By our numbers, they kicked off the 2018 campaign with a 76.3% shot to win the AFC East for the 10th consecutive season and an 88.4% chance at a playoff berth. Through 17 weeks, they fell out of the top five in our ELO rankings just once and prior to the Divisional Round, we pegged them with a 20.0% chance to take home their sixth Super Bowl title in nine tries. The 2018 Patriots were far from a Rudy-calibre fairy tale.
However, there’s some merit to Julian Edelman’s slogan on a personal level. The former Kent State quarterback, who was generously listed at 5-foot-11, 195 pounds before being taken with the 232nd pick of the 2009 NFL Draft, was never in a million years thought of as a player that could almost single-handedly bring New England a sixth Super Bowl championship as a number one wide receiver. Yet, here we are.