The 2008 New England Patriots season was the 39th season for the team in the National Football League and 49th season overall. Despite finishing the regular season with an 11–5 record, the Patriots did not qualify for the playoffs—becoming the first 11-win team since the expansion to a 12-team playoff in 1990 to not make the playoffs, as well as only the second team (after the 1985 Denver Broncos) since the NFL expanded to a 16-game regular season in 1978. This came just one year after finishing with the only 16–0 regular-season record in NFL history.
In the season opener, quarterback Tom Brady, the NFL's MVP in 2007, suffered a knee injury from the Chiefs and missed the remainder of the season. Backup quarterback Matt Cassel replaced Brady. Cassel's start in Week 2 was his first start in a game since high school, and he led the Patriots to a win, which extended the Pats' regular-season winning streak record to 21 games before a loss the next week ended the streak. This record was broken by the Indianapolis Colts in 2009.
Despite entering the last week of the season with a three-game winning streak, the Patriots found themselves not controlling their own destiny. In addition to a Week 17 win, they also needed either a Miami Dolphins loss to win the AFC East, or a Baltimore Ravens loss to earn a wild card berth. However, both Baltimore and Miami won, and the Dolphins, Ravens and Patriots each finished the season with an 11–5 record. Miami qualified for the playoffs by winning the AFC East division over the Patriots on the fourth divisional tiebreaker (better conference record: 8–4 to 7–5). Baltimore qualified for the playoffs as a wild card team, defeating the Patriots on the second wild card tiebreaker (better conference record: 8–4 to 7–5). The Patriots thus became the first team since the 1985 Denver Broncos to finish with an 11–5 record and not make the playoffs.
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