I am going to go out on a limb here and say you have enjoyed watching the Patriots first eight games of the season. The defense has put on an absolute clinic since the first whistle blew. Bill Belichick has been up to his old tricks and has gotten the most out of the players on the roster. And at 42, Tom Brady and the offense have been more than respectable even with a banged up offensive line and a revolving door at the wide receiver position. But now, New England starts to face much better competition.
Now I am not discrediting the Patriots for the start of their season. Actually, quite the opposite. You have to beat who is on your schedule, obviously. But the Patriots have not just won a few games. They have dominated the weaker competition so far. If they were squeaking by these less than stellar franchises, then we could have that conversation. Now that the easier part of the schedule is behind them, New England and their fans should welcome the challenges ahead.
Starting this weekend, the Patriots kick off a five game stretch where they will play five teams who made the playoffs last year. Not to mention, all of these teams still have a shot at the postseason this year. While it has been entertaining at times, and hilarious at others, watching the Patriots embarrass their competition, fans should look forward to this stretch.
I do not think it would be productive for the Patriots to go into the playoffs without facing adversity. Rolling the regular season while facing zero hardships has not lead to a lot of postseason success.The first time teams like that deal with push back, they often fold. Winning all your games, or an incredibly high percentage, is one thing. But breezing through the competition for months could lead to some massive issues. Not to mention, now Patriots fans will see competitive, close, intense football games.
This Sunday, New England heads into Baltimore to have their first crack at Lamar Jackson. The Ravens, lead by John Harbaugh since 2008, have played the Patriots as tough as anyone. These two teams have not squared off since 2016. It will be interesting to see how the Patriots manage Jackson’s skill sets. Furthermore, it is always fascinating to see what Brady, McDaniels, and the offense have in store for the opposing defense. The Patriots are currently losing 17-13 at halftime, coming back from being down 17-0 earlier in the game.
After Sunday, the Patriots enter their bye week. Then they are off to Philadelphia to battle the Eagles. The week after, they take on the Dallas Cowboys at Gillette. In Week 13, New England travels to Houston to take on Deshaun Watson and the Texans. Then to close out this stretch, Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs come into Foxborough for a rematch of last year’s AFC Championship Game.
These next five games will be a great test to see how New England stacks up against top tier competition. Nobody should be discounting the first half of the Patriots season, as it has been nothing short of extraordinary. However, we will learn a lot about this football team over the next six weeks.
Story by Chad Jones
Follow Chad on Twitter @shutupchadjones