By Dan Zeigarnik, Patriots Daily Staff

It is amusing to hear all the ‘are the Patriots going to go 13-3?’ talk after Monday night’s pounding of the lowly Chiefs considering how dire the situation looked just a few weeks ago.

Don’t get me wrong, achieving a 13-3 or a 12-4 record is an amazing feat regardless of how it is achieved and it would be hypocritical to say otherwise. However, after being burned in recent years by a 16-0 and a 14-2 season, fans have been quite loudly yearning for playoff victories and getting their hands one more time on a Lombardi trophy before Belichick and Brady’s glorious careers finally sunset.

So with this in mind, can the cupcake schedule of facing Colts, Broncos, Redskins, Dolphins and the imploding Bills really prepare the Patriots for a playoff run?

Everyone is well aware of how beat-up the Patriots defense is and how they rank dead last in yards allowed, but fewer people are openly discussing the Patriots offensive woes. The Tom Brady-led high-powered machine, surgically cuts up opposing teams and usually has to wave off claims of whether running up the score is unsportsmanlike or not.

However the game plan to stop New England is pretty straight-forward:

  • Create pressure on the quarterback with just a four-man rush
  • Doubleteam Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski
  • Win time of possession battle by continuously converting third downs.

Tom Brady, like every other mortal, is much less accurate when he doesn’t get a chance to set his feet. The pressure also disrupts an already average rushing attack, forcing Brady to make the perfect pass every time. Obviously, this is much easier said than done, and can only really be accomplished with an amazing defensive line. However, some of the teams that the Patriots will have to face in the playoffs can execute the above stated game plan.New Englandwas bounce three times in recent history with just such a game plan. This year the losses to the Steelers and Giants were eerily reminiscent of the Patriots past January woes.

So how is playing some of the worst teams in football going to help the Patriots get ready for the post-season? Sure, they will be able to get healthy without losing ground in the standings, and their confidence and momentum will be high, which shouldn’t be understated. However, achieving a 13-3 or 12-4 record without facing a playoff team after Thanksgiving should give pundits and fans pause.

Therefore, we should not overlook the Eagles just because they are 4-6. They just beat a good Giants team and have a great defense when they’re not shooting themselves in the foot. For the Patriots sake, I hope that the Eagles don’t implode and are able to give the Patriots their last real test before the playoffs start.

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