Patriots own the month of....

lexrageorge

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Jul 31, 2007
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OK, time to talk about football.  Every now and then you hear a sports columnist write how the Patriots "own" the month of <fill_in_the_blank>.  I recently heard this about the month of December.  So, I decided to look at the various teams and how they've done month-by-month during the Belichick era.  Summary of the results (my apologies if this is already common knowledge), with a note that these results include Belichick's inaugural 2000 season with Bledsoe under center and the 2008 season that Brady missed.  Regular season results only. 
 
September:  The Opening Act.  The interminable preseason is finally over, and teams are a go for launch.  This is the month where teams try set the stage for the rest of the season, and where coaches learn what works and what doesn't work for their team.  With the exception of the irritatingly common preseason injuries, teams are generally healthy; the weather is warm, if not hot, throughout the various venues; and every team is a contender.  September is also famous for "false starts", aka teams starting out with convincing wins and rapidly climbing the power rankings, only to fall back to earth later in the season.  Consider, for example, the 2012 Cardinals, who won all 4 of their September games, including one in Foxborough, only to go 1-11 the rest of the way.  There are also plenty of teams that by end of the season would love to have one of their "meaningless" September losses back.  
 
Since 2000, the Patriots have amassed a 31-19 record, good for a 0.620 winning percentage.  That puts them tied for 4th with Seattle, behind Indy (34-15), Denver (35-17), and Baltimore (32-18).  Notable "down" points for the Pats included their 0-4 start in 2000, a 1-2 start in 2001 and a handful of 2-2 months (2003, 2012, and 2014).  The worst team:  Cleveland, with a 0.327 winning percentage in September (17-35).  As we'll see, if there's a month to beat the Patriots, September is the one. 
 
October:  Reality Strikes. There's a saying the "real" games begin when the leaves start to turn in the Northeast.  Coaches make adjustments to opposing teams' tendencies as game film becomes available, some veterans lose jobs while younger players step in, and teams start playing deeper into the roster as the reality of injuries sets in.  September Cinderellas start to show cracks in the foundation, while the sleeper teams start to play better as rosters gel.  
 
During this most glorious month, Belichick's Patriot teams have compiled an impressive 45-16 record (0.738), good for tops in the NFL, followed by Pittsburgh (42-16), New York Giants, Indy, and Green Bay.  NE has had one losing October (0-3 in 2002), and 4 times have gone 2-2 (2000, 2001, 2005, and 2013).  Meanwhile, 5 times have the Pats gone undefeated in October (2003, 2006, 2007, 2010, and 2014).  The worst:  Jacksonville at 20-39 (0.339 pct). 
 
November:  The Grind.  The league has by now clearly separated into favorites, contenders, and flops.  The games get more brutal as teams fight for playoff spots.  Meanwhile, the injuries continue to mount, the rookies start hitting a wall, and the weather gets colder and more windy in many venues.  Interestingly, 4 of the league's 5 ties since 2000 have occurred during the month of November. 
 
So, how have the Pats done during this most crucial month?  Not quite as good as October, but still good enough (41-18, 0.695) to be first in the NFL.  Behind the Pats are Indy, Baltimore, Philly, and Denver.  Twice have the Pats had losing records in November:  2000 (1-3) and 2008 (2-3).  Which means the team has never had a losing November with Brady taking the snaps (discounting his 2000 cameo against the Lions).  Speaking of the Lions, they by far have the worst November record, going 17-47 (0.266); I guess that game on Turkey Day is not that much of a benefit to them. 
 
December & January:  The Final Stretch.  Playoff positions are said to be won and lost during this period.  While not true (September games count just the same), it is these months when the NFL takes center stage.  The bye weeks are over.  The colleges are off for finals and prepping for their bowl appearances.  Contending teams are jockeying for playoff position, or simply any spot in the playoffs.  Some of the losing teams are battling to preserve some level of respectability (as well as the coaches and players' jobs) by playing spoiler to their hated division rivals, while other losing teams are mailing it in.  By the end of this period, some of the backups get playing time on the teams that have their playoff spot locked up.  
 
I will preface the results for the home stretch by stating that if a team needs to beat New England in December or January to keep their playoff hopes alive, they may as well pack their golf clubs.  Belichick's Pats lead the NFL in going 58-12 (0.829) during this period, 7 fewer losses than the 2nd place Steelers (52-19, 0.732) or 3rd place Green Bay (51-19, 0.729; gotta love Lambeau Field).  Indy and Philly round out the top 5.  Of those 12 losses, 3 came during the last game of the season after NE had their playoff position locked (and one of those may have been an intentional loss), and 2 came in 2000 when the Pats went 5-11.  6 times the Pats have gone undefeated in regular season games in December and January, and never once had the Pats had a losing record in December.  If there is a team you do want to play in December, it's either Cleveland (0.268) or Oakland (0.275).  
 
So, when you hear a columnist say "The Patriots and Belichick own the month of October", remember to note that while correct, it tells only part of the story.  
 
For the record, if you remove the 2000 season, the Pats winning percentage by month improves across the board:
 
September:  0.674 (3rd)
October:  0.754 (1st)
November:  0.727 (1st)
December:  0.848 (1st)
 
No wonder why they hate us.  
 

EricFeczko

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Apr 26, 2014
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lexrageorge said:
As we'll see, if there's a month to be the Patriots, September is the one.
I'm not sure I follow this line. Did you mean to write "beat" instead of "be"?

Based on what you wrote, every month is the month to be the patriots.
 

Koufax

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I think he meant "beat".
 

lexrageorge

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EricFeczko said:
I'm not sure I follow this line. Did you mean to write "beat" instead of "be"?

Based on what you wrote, every month is the month to be the patriots.
Corrected my typo; thanks. 
 

SeoulSoxFan

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Terrific breakdown. Thanks for putting in the time and doing the research. It's awesome to put the stats behind the cliches (except they really aren't cliches after all).