HOT WHEN IT'S COLDThe weather may turn cold late in the NFL season, but in recent years the Patriots have remained red hot. New England has historically responded well to the cold, compiling a 20-1 record since 1993 when the temperature is 34 degrees or less. And when it gets even colder the Patriots get even better - they're 14-0 since 1993 when it's 30 degrees or less. New England has also won 15 straight games when it's been 35 degrees or less. Additionally, quarterback Tom Brady has been perfect in cold conditions, going 19-0 as a starter when it's below 40 degrees.
PLAYOFF SCENARIOSThe Patriots can clinch the AFC East title this week if they defeat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or the Miami Dolphins lose to the New York Jets or both the Patriots and Dolphins games end in a tie. If any of those scenarios happen, the first-place Patriots would lead the second-place Dolphins by two games in the standings with two games to play and the Patriots would be assured of winning the tiebreaker over the Dolphins based on a better divisional record. The Patriots have won five division titles in the 11 full seasons since Robert Kraft purchased the team in 1994, and have led the NFL over that span with 12 playoff wins, four conference championships and three Super Bowl titles. New England has won the AFC East crown in three of the last four seasons (2001, 2003, 2004). The Patriots finished tied for the best record in the AFC East in 2002, but the New York Jets claimed the division crown on the third tiebreaker (record against common opponents). The Patriots have won eight division titles in their 45-year history.
VICTORY DROUGHTThe Patriots have not defeated the Buccaneers in regular-season play since 1988, making them one of just two teams the Patriots have not defeated since Robert Kraft purchased the team in 1994. The only team against which the Patriots hold a longer victory drought than the Buccaneers is the Washington Redskins (last win in 1972). Since the beginning of the 2001 season, the Patriots have defeated 28 of the 31 other NFL teams.
INFREQUENT FOESThe Patriots and Buccaneers will meet for just the sixth time in regular-season play. The teams have played just five times since the series was inaugurated 30 seasons ago (1976). The Patriots' five games against Tampa Bay are the fewest against any team that entered the league prior to the most recent era of expansion, which began with the entry of the Jaguars and Panthers to the NFL in 1995.
FIRST TIME FOR TOMThe Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the only NFL team against which Tom Brady has never started a game. Brady has compiled a record of 24-6 (.800) when starting against a team for the first time. Tampa Bay, Washington and Green Bay are the only teams against which Brady has not recorded a victory.