The first nine games have been a success so far for the Patriots. They are still the favorite to wind up as the number one seed in the AFC. Having the road to the Super Bowl go through Gillette would be a huge boost for New England.
However, some questions have come up after a bad loss to the Ravens in Baltimore. In their first test against a playoff caliber team, the Patriots got outplayed in more ways than one. Having said that, New England should be feeling good during their off week.
1 thing the Patriots deserve credit for is that they have stayed focused playing sub-par opponents. Even though they won the Super Bowl last year, they dropped five games against non playoff teams. They were beaten by the Jaguars, Lions, Titans, Steelers, and Dolphins. So kudos to them for not slipping up against inferior competition.
They were not screwing around against the Steelers, Dolphins, Jets twice, Redskins, Giants, and Browns. They scored 234 points and allowed only 51 in those seven games. It's completely fair to point out that those are games they should win. However, they took it to another level by embarrassing those teams. Winning in the NFL should not be that easy.
It turns out, it is not that easy. The first time the Patriots faced a team bound for January football, they were awful. They committed dumb penalties, egregious turnovers, and allowed backbreaking drives. It is somewhat concerning that the first time New England goes up again at a playoff team they have by far their worst performance.
We will learn a lot more about them during the next four games. We will see how they handle Carson Wentz, Dak Prescott, Deshaun Watson, and Patrick Mahomes.
Now specifically for the offense, they have done pretty well all things considered. They have been banged up on the line unfortunately. The Patriots have not had their starting their center for the entire season and left tackle for most of the year. The running and passing games have suffered because of that.
Tom Brady has played well at 42 years old. He is second in the NFL with 2,536 yards, and is averaging 281.8 yards a game. His touchdown to interception ratio is solid at 14-5. While the offense is far from explosive, it has gotten the job done most games. Adding Isaiah Wynn and N’Keal Harry should give the offense a boost in production.
The Patriot's defense has clearly been their strength so far this season. Even after the Baltimore loss, New England has only allowed eight touchdowns. Three have been through the air, while five have come on the ground. Their turnover rate is insane, as New England has caused 27 turnovers.
The only other team in the 20’s are the Steleers with 22. The defense, led by outstanding players, such as Stephon Gilmore and Dont'a Hightower, have redefined the Patriots image. They are not the flashy offensive team that needs the defense to get a few key turnovers. Right now, they are the biggest reason why they are 8-1.
That could change going forward. The defense needs to re-establish themselves after their poor performance. Also, the offense could really open up when Wynn and Harry take the field. The Patriots know they are held to the highest standard in sports for a reason. While they have gotten off to a successful start, they will need to get their swagger back fans saw in the first eight games.
Story by Chad Jones
Follow Chad on Twitter @shutupchadjones