As music legend, Andy Williams’ iconic holiday classic states, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”
Anticipation is high and excitement is everywhere. Bright lights illuminate almost every street within sight. In short, everyone seems to be preparing for a celebration. It’s December. It’s that time of year.
Are we talking about the Holiday season? For most of the country….yes.
However, in New England, December is a crucial time of the year. For fans of the New England Patriots, it is truly a ‘wonderful’ time of anticipation, bright lights, and excitement. For the team itself, it’s a bit different. The arrival of December is a reminder that “Winter is Coming,” and there are “No Days Off.”
For fans of the critically and socially acclaimed HBO show, Game of Thrones, “Winter Is Coming” is the motto of House Stark, one of the Great Houses of Westeros. The meaning behind these words is one of warning and constant vigilance. The Starks, being the lords of the North, strive to always be prepared for the coming of winter. The season means colder weather, greater adversity and the need for added strength.
In Foxboro, Massachusetts, it could be argued that the “lords of the North” are the Krafts. Their squadron, commanded by head coach Bill Belichick, is led on the field of battle by their star soldier, quarterback Tom Brady.
However, it may be a more appropriate comparison than one may initially think.
During the course of the Brady-Belichick years in New England, making a dominant stretch run in the month of December has been a signature move. Since 2001, the Patriots have won 14 out of a possible 16 AFC East division titles. In most of those seasons, the push made by the Patriots in the final month of the calendar year has been the key in catapulting the Pats to the top spot in their division. That sustained level of success is hardly a coincidence. Rather, it is the result, of preparation, hard work, and perseverance. Much like House Stark, the Patriots have prepared for their ‘Winter’ in a similar fashion.
Game of Numbers?
It can be rather amusing to make analogic references to NFL Teams and Cable TV shows. However, the statistics show that this one is grounded in numerical fact. Since his arrival in New England, Bill Belichick is 60-12, with a .833 winning percentage in the month of December. That is, by far, the best December record among head coaches with a single team in NFL history (having coached a minimum of 25 games.) By comparison, George Seifert is second with a record of 27-6, and a .818 winning percentage. Still feeling optimistic about beating Bill during the Holidays? Good luck with that.
Although Belichick’s December stats are daunting for his opponents, those of his quarterback are just as imposing. In fact, they might be even more impressive. Tom Brady owns a career record of 54-10 in December. His winning percentage of .844 is the second-best among quarterbacks in the Super Bowl era. Only Dallas Cowboys legend, Roger Staubach, can boast a better percentage of .850. Even so, his 17 wins during the month are 37 less than Brady’s total. Among active quarterbacks, Cam Newton is second with a 19-5 record (.792). Brady’s 54 December wins are the most in NFL history. He is followed by 52 for Brett Favre and 49 by Peyton Manning. When it comes to Winter, Brady is truly the ‘King of the North.’
Patriots, Brace Yourselves.
In 2017, the Patriots will face a long December. Three of their four remaining regular season games will be against their divisional rivals. Starting this Sunday (December 3,) the Patriots will travel to Orchard Park, NY to battle the Buffalo Bills. After a Monday night tilt with the Miami Dolphins (December 11) in South Beach, the Pats will travel to the Steel City on December 17 to take on Pittsburgh in a potential fight for home-field advantage in the playoffs. To close the regular season, New England will be home for the Holidays. They will host the Bills at Gillette on Christmas Eve, and close 2017 by inviting the New York Jets to ring in the New Year in Foxboro.
Most will tell you that all eyes are on Pittsburgh. However, the remaining divisional games might prove-to-be as, or even more, difficult. AFC East opponents are always ready to give the Patriots a tough game. Each one of them would love nothing more than to know they delivered a jagged lump of coal to the Patriots playoff picture. Of course, its certain that the Steelers would much rather be hosting the AFC Championship Game, than playing it on the road. If they can take care of business at home on the 17th, they might be able to do just that.
As for House Kraft of Foxboro, Belichick and Brady know the value of bracing for the ‘Winter.’ They have been doing so since their first December winter together in 2001. They have been pretty successful at it. However, in this game, there is only one yearly throne. The Patriots might be the defending Super Bowl Champions, but their coach will never say that they currently possess it. The throne is vacant and will be be claimed by the team that works harder than any other. Will the Pats continue to dominate the month of December? Only time will tell. Their opponents will be ready; so will the Patriots.
Let the games begin…
–Mike D’Abate is a Managing Editor and National Content Writer for Full Press Coverage Sports Media. He covers the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Chargers. Follow him on Twitter @mdabateFPC