Legitimate has become a subjective designation. There’s a lot of dispute these days in this country about whose victories merit legitimacy. The Patriots are going to dodge any of that divisive debate, thanks to the outcome of the divisional round of the NFL playoffs.
The biggest knock against the Patriots and their stingy defense to this point is not how they’ve played, but who they’ve played. Their level of competition, or lack thereof, this season is sticking point for the team that allowed the fewest points per game in the NFL (15.6).
Winners of eight straight and 15 games in 17 tries, the Patriots have only played two starting quarterbacks whose teams finished in the top 10 in passing offense. (Roethlisberger missed the Patriots’ first matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers on Oct. 23 with a torn meniscus.) They went 1-1 in a pair of agita-inducing games
Let’s be honest. There have been a lot of weeks this season that the best quarterback the Patriots faced was Jimmy Garoppolo in practice.