ESPN FPI projects Patriots vs. Buccaneers as likeliest Super Bowl matchup originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
The New England Patriots have entered their Week 14 bye as the hottest team in the NFL with a seven-game win streak.
This run has vaulted the Patriots from 2-4 to the first place team in the AFC East and the conference's No. 1 seed with a 9-4 record. New England's most recent win, a 14-10 triumph over the rival Buffalo Bills on the road, gave Bill Belichick's team a commanding lead in the division.
All of this winning has Patriots fans thinking a potential Super Bowl run is an actual possibility. If you look around the AFC, there's no dominant team for others to fear. Sure, the Kansas City Chiefs are starting to play better and superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes is always a threat. But the Chiefs have looked bad at times throughout the year, particularly on offense.
What are the chances the Patriots reach the Super Bowl? And who might the Pats play if they make it?
ESPN's Football Power Index model projects the Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the most likely Super Bowl LVI matchup at 10 percent. The Patriots have a 31.4 percent chance of winning the AFC in ESPN's FPI model, which is the highest of any team in the conference. The next-highest is the Bills at 20.2 percent.
The Buccaneers and Arizona Cardinals have the highest chance to win the NFC at 31 percent apiece, although Tampa Bay has a slightly higher chance of winning the Super Bowl at 19.8 percent in FPI's model.
A Patriots-Buccaneers Super Bowl would be one of the biggest games in the history of sports.
Tom Brady versus Belichick. Brady versus his former team. Mac Jones trying to become the first rookie ever to start and win a Super Bowl. The Patriots trying to become the first team to win seven Super Bowl titles. The Bucs trying to become the first repeat champs since Brady and the Pats did it in 2003 and 2004.
The storylines would be endless.
There's a long way to go before that matchup becomes a reality, and each team faces a very difficult path to Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles. But it's fun for fans across New England to think about, and given the way the Patriots have played of late, it's not an unrealistic scenario.