After watching the other three teams playing in Championship weekend, did the Patriots have a real chance at winning the Super Bowl, or were they simply missing too many pieces to truly compete against the league's most elite teams?
Raj: I still think they had a shot. They've been proving teams wrong all year. But if the team decides not to show up, then there isn't much we can do. I still think that if the Patriots won last week, they would have given Seattle a tough fight even though they were a very injured team.
Jason: There is no doubt in my mind that the Patriots were good enough to compete with the other three teams with Talib healthy. If the defense gives Tom Brady a few more possessions, then the game would have been very tight. If they had squeaked past Denver, I think they would have beaten the Seahawks, and a good defensive gameplan against Kaepernick would have given them a decent shot at the 49ers.
Rick: On Sunday, we finally saw that the Patriots don’t have enough pieces at this point to win a championship. They weren’t at full strength and after Talib went down, the depth just couldn’t handle one of the more prolific offenses in NFL history. If they went up against Seattle, the Seahawks would be able to get to Brady repeatedly and pound the ball with Marshawn Lynch. The Patriots should get a ton of credit for somehow finishing 12-4 and making the AFC Championship Game with the roster that they have. However, the weapons weren’t there at wide receivers and the pass rush, even when healthy, still is a liability. The NFL got the best matchup it could get for Super Sunday in snowy New Jersey considering it is the best offense going up against the best defense.
Derek: Even with Talib on the field, it's hard to say whether the Patriots would have beaten the Broncos. The offense was sputtering most of the day. Still, with a Talib-less defense holding Denver to a mere 26 points, you can't count the Patriots out in that situation. It's probably a coin flip and we'll never get to know that outcome. If they had made it to the Super Bowl, either the Seahawks or the Niners would have been a tall task. At that point, you're banking on a really good all-around day for the Patriots and maybe some help from inclement weather.
So did they have a chance? Absolutely. However, it was never likely. The Patriots would have needed some combination of turnovers/bad weather/QB magic to be the victors on Sunday.
But hey, we saw it work for the Giants twice, so who's to say the Pats couldn't have pulled it off?