The 2012-13 New England Patriots just became the first team in NFL history to get back-to-back byes before advancing to the conference championship game.
Could this get any easier?
I mean, seriously? The planets are aligned and the tomato cans are in place. The fraudulent Houston Texans are the only team standing between the New England Patriots and a trip to the AFC Championship game. All the Patriots have to do is beat the terrible Texans. One week from Sunday. At Gillette Stadium.
Pass Go and collect $200. The Patriots are in the AFC title game.
What happened at Reliant Stadium Saturday was consistent with the history of the Bill Belichick Patriots ever since Walt Coleman invoked the tuck rule on that snowy Saturday in Foxborough 11 years ago. The Patriots are very good, but they are also amazingly lucky. Whatever they need to have happen, happens. Things fall into place. The Patriots always get what they want.
Need Minnesota to beat Houston? Done.
Need Indianapolis to beat Houston in a game in which Indy has nothing at stake? Done.
Need Cincinnati to submit one of the worst efforts in playoff history? Done.
It is Murphy’s Law in reverse. Whatever can go right for the Patriots will go right.
I thought last year’s cakewalk was the easiest path any team ever had to get to the Super Bowl. All the Patriots had to do was beat the 8-8 Denver Broncos to get to the conference title game.
But this is more of a layup. In the wake of Houston’s win over Cincinnati Saturday, the Patriots now can advance to the NFL’s Final Four by beating a team they routed, 42-14, just four weeks ago.
I know what you are thinking. Just two years ago, the Patriots beat the New York Jets, 45-3, in December, then lost a first-round game to the same Jets just a few weeks later.
This is not the same. Those Jets were not afraid of the Patriots. Those Jets had players and a coach who did not wet their pants at the sight of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. Those Jets had attitude.
The 2012-13 Texans? Pure frauds. The worst 11-1 team in the history of the NFL. These Texans have absolutely zero chance of beating New England here next week. And everybody knows that this is true.
The Texans lost three of their final four games during the regular season. In the last seven weeks of the season, they had the 27th-ranked defense in the NFL. They had to go into overtime to beat the horrible Jaguars and Lions.
They had a chance to clinch a first-round bye and home field throughout the playoffs by winning at home against Minnesota in the next-to-last game of the season. They couldn’t do it.
Then they had the same opportunity in the final weekend against the Colts, who had nothing at stake. Houston couldn’t win.
The Texans are led by a quarterback who played nine years in the league before finally winning his first playoff game Saturday.
Oh, and then there was the game in Foxborough four weeks ago, a game that Houston’s veteran wideout Andre Johnson characterized as “the biggest game in franchise history.’’
The boola-boola Texans wore their matching letterman jackets to Foxborough. They came out in an illegal formation on their first play from scrimmage. When the Patriots tried to keep them in the game — Stevan Ridley fumbled on Houston’s 4-yard line — Houston’s Kareem Jackson failed to scoop up the football.
New England led, 21-0, after nine minutes. It was 28-0 in the fifth minute of the third quarter. It was 35-7 in the first minute of the final quarter. When it got to 42-7, both starting quarterbacks were lifted from the game.
The great J.J. Watt was a zero in that game. Then he was unavailable for comment after the game. Houston’s ever-overmatched defensive coordinator, Wade Phillips, was scratching his head, perhaps wondering why his guys were unable to cover all those Patriots wide receivers.
Phillips and head coach Gary Kubiak did what almost everybody does against the Patriots. They choked. The forget what got them to this level. They played on their heels, and let Brady carve them up like a medical school cadaver. No pressure. Total retreat. Total surrender.
On Saturday, the Texans staggered to a 6-point win against a team that hasn’t won a playoff game in 22 years. It was one of the ugliest games in NFL playoff history. Playing in the image of Marvin Lewis — the Cito Gaston of football — Cincinnati’s offense managed two field goals.
The Patriots did nothing Saturday. And they got exactly what they wanted.Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Correction: Because of a reporting error, Stevan Ridley’s name was misspelled and Reliant Stadium’s name was misstated in an earlier version.