When the Patriots lost to the Dolphins on Sunday they made the last two games of their season meaningless. The last time they played a game when they knew they weren't part of the playoff picture was in the year 2000.
That season they finished with a record of 5-11. Drew Bledsoe was the quarterback and Tom Brady had just been drafted.
It wasn't until the following season that the Patriots would move-on to be the longest tenured dynasty the NFL had ever seen.
Since Brady became the starting QB in 2001 the Patriots, Belichick and Brady have won the AFC East division 17 out of 19 seasons.
The only season they didn't was in 2002, Brady's second season in the NFL.
They did however finish in the #2 spot in the division when Brady tore his ACL in 2008 and Matt Cassel was the QB for 15 of the seasons 16 games.
Belichick has never won a division title in the eight seasons he's coached without Tom Brady as his QB. That obviously includes his prior coaching gigs in Cleveland and New York.
The days of division titles appear to be over for a little while, as the team has many question-marks about its future on many levels, and the Dolphins and Bills seem to be in much better shape than the Patriots at this point.
Patriots fans are probably feeling an emotion they haven't felt in a long time.
The old "there's always next year" hasn't been spoken in Foxboro in the month of December in a long time.
In the year 2000,
- George W, Bush was running against Al Gore.
- The average cost of a gallon of gas $1.26.
- A US postage stamp 33-cents.
- The State of Vermont legalized Civil Unions for same-sex couples.
- Tiger Woods became the youngest player to win a Grand Slam in Golf.
- 51 million viewers watched the first season finale of the reality show "Survivor".
- Julia Roberts was named one of People's 50 Most Beautiful People in the World.
- NSYNC became the biggest boy band in the world.
So, as you can see, it's been quite a while since the Patriots were eliminated from playoff contention before the season was over.
They still have games against the Bills and Jets, and the Bills still have a lot to play for as they look to improve their playoff seeding. If they can catch the Steelers and move into the #2 spot they could play the Dolphins and avoid the Colts in the Wildcard round.
If they lose a couple games they could find themselves on the road in the first-round.
The Jets on the other hand have already made their dismal season even worse by winning in week-15 and moving themselves out of the top spot in the NFL draft and the shot at drafting Clemson's QB Trevor Lawrence. Only they could screw that up.
The only thing left for Patriots fans that is of much interest the rest of the way would be how back-up QB Jarrett Stidham plays in these meaningless games.
The decision to sit Cam Newton and play Stidham still hasn't been made by Coach Belichick yet, so watching Stidham on Sunday in week-16 may not even be an option, but one can only hope.
I think everyone has seen enough of the year 2020, this Patriots season, and especially enough of Cam Newton.