It’s almost as if nobody who comments on the National Football League, pundits to patrons, ever watch the game or spend one nanosecond pondering its recent history.

The volume of former players and coaches who picked the Los Angeles Chargers to “end the dynasty” and/or push the New England Patriots “over the cliff” this past week was predictably amusing.

More mind-numbing was the apparent percentage of folks who have watched and supported the Patriots for more than a day or two and were worried about the outcome of Sunday’s divisional playoff in Foxborough.

Apparently it doesn’t take much more than a streak of wins over the Cardinals, Raiders and Broncos (yes, and a victory at Arrowhead over the Chiefs in one of their first Kareem Hunt-less game) to be anointed the AFC favorite. I’m sure NFL Films is preparing a new installment in the “Missing Rings” anthology as we speak.

All week I heard about Philip Rivers being undefeated outside Los Angeles, where you’d have an easier time on any street corner selling scarves and mittens than tickets to a professional football game. That Tom Brady and the Patriots entered their impending execution on a 15-game home winning streak was reported as a virtual asterisk, if at all.

Rivers’ past miseries in Gillette Stadium and his complete failure to even sniff a Super Bowl were somehow viewed as strengths. His prolific efforts in, ahem, other areas surely were celebrated, along with his proclivity for floating “gosh dang it” more than most.

Rarely was it mentioned that his 41-year-old opposite number threw for 4,355 yards and 29 touchdowns against 11 touchdowns on a bum knee, essentially the median year of his incomparable career.

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Nor was there much mention that Tom Brady (in case you forgot his name) accomplished all that with only two receivers above 50 catches: A part-time running back (James White) and a guy coming off knee reconstruction (Julian Edelman).

His all-world tight end rapidly devolved into a decoy. His mist physically gifted receiver was a mid-season social experiment that didn’t pan out. Yet a visitor from another planet might not have surmised Brady was even participating in the playoffs, given the broadcast bromance with Rivers, Patrick Mahomes, Andrew Luck, Drew Brees, Jared Goff, Dak Prescott and Nick Foles.

Of course that’s the issue here. The Patriots aren’t sexy, and they defy logic. Their personnel is that of a 5-11 team. They rode out Sony Michel’s month-long injury by lining up a kick returner/mediocre receiver at tailback, for Bill’s sake. Defensively, they lack anyone with a fraction of Joey Bosa’s physical gifts or name recognition.

It’s the ultimately plug-and-play system, and it simultaneously drives the world bonkers while spoiling the congregation rotten as it awaits the inevitable shoe to drop.

Well, rest assured the world didn’t hear that telltale thump this year, no matter what happens next Sunday. New England has reached the final four for an absurd eighth consecutive January.

That’s an accomplishment that never again shall be duplicated, and it is one all stakeholders, even in a world where it feels as if Super Bowl appearances are a divine right, should celebrate. If you don’t think it matters, ask fans of the Dallas Cowboys, who haven’t carried a lasso into the penultimate round of the playoffs since 1996.

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The love-fest for Kansas City, especially after its win over Indianapolis, the other supposed hottest team on the planet, will be thick. I can’t wait.

We’ll be bombarded by pictures of a diaper-clad Mahomes wobbling around major league bullpens. We’ll hear incessantly about Andy Reid and the mad science of that Waffle House menu he holds in front of his face. We’ll be schooled in all the ways the Chiefs’ venerable home stadium is louder than O’Hare and LaGuardia combined. We’ll see gruesome highlights of Monday and Thursday night losses past and almost none of this year’s Sunday night victory.

‘Tis the way of the world. Everybody’s dying for the next great coach, quarterback, franchise, you name it, to carry this league through the next decade. All the while, they fail to properly enjoy the ones who have rolled with the changes and dominated the landscape since the turn of the century.

It increases the entertainment and comedic value. Enjoy the noise. Celebrate the doubt. Just don’t fall into the trap and contribute to it.

Kalle Oakes spent 27 years in the Sun Journal sports department. He is now sports editor of the Georgetown (Kentucky) News-Graphic. Keep in touch with him at [email protected] or on Twitter @oaksie72.


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