Coming off an embarrassing blowout at the hands of the Tennessee Titans, the Patriots stand at 7-3 just having completed their bye week. Let’s see if the sky is falling like everyone else has been suggesting the last few years!
Quarterback: This Brady guy is pretty good, I wouldn’t doubt him, did you know he’s 41 by the way? While hasn’t been an MVP candidate like past years he is certainly better than what other teams have. H has been losing he feel for the deep throws but still has a pretty good arm. However, he remains an elite football mind, he is top tier at reading defenses and making the right decisions with his throws. He does have 7 interceptions but around 4-5 of those are on balls that where right in the hands of his receivers that they just missed and tipped into the air, then the opposing defense came down with it.
Offensive skills positions: I’m going to group receivers, running backs and tight ends for simplicities sake. Coming into the season this was considered a week group but to the surprise of very few people not named Max Kellerman and Rob Parker, things have changed. Coming back from a torn ACL and a questionable suspension for PED’s Julian Edelman has reclaimed his ore-injury form. Then in a trade that came somewhat surprisingly Belichick robbed the Browns of Josh Gordon for a 5th round pick and he’s been a great addition that will only get better with more games. Gronk has been hurt, the sky is blue, yada yada, but the Patriots need him. He undoubtedly makes this offense better whether he puts up big numbers or not. His presence changes how teams play this offense. The running backs have been a pleasant surprise. Sony Michel has come back from the minor knee surgery during the preseason and a knee injury in Chicago and played well, adding another layer and pass-run balance to this offense. James White is a man on a mission right now, he is a touchdown machine. One of, if not the best receiving backs in the league and a decent running back better outside and in space than between the tackles. He is continuing to improve after his epic Super Bowl 51 performance.
Offensive Line: up until the Titans game you likely haven’t heard much about them, and that’s good. The better they play the less you hear because they’re doing their job. A questionable at the time trade for the literal giant named Trent Brown has been an incredibly good one for the Patriots, the 6-foot 8 inch and 380-pound behemoth has played like a pro bowler all season after having questions about his pass blocking in San Francisco. Shaq Mason and Marcus Cannon continue to be tops at their position on the right side. Joe Thuney and captain David Andrews continues to improve at the left guard and center position respectively.
I am a strong believer that this defense is better than people will tell you, but we’ll get to that. (the picture above is irrelevant to this season, but I love it.)
Defensive Line and Linebackers: The defensive line anchored by the criminally underrated Trey Flowers has been much more aggressive than last years unit. While they may not have big sack numbers, they force a lot of passes to be thrown away or inaccurate. They do struggle with containing mobile quarterbacks. The linebackers were seen as the weakest spot coming into the year and that is somewhat still true. Rookie Ja’Whaun Bentley gave this core a boost to start the year but went down with injury. Dont’a Hightower has come back to form after a slow start in his return from injury, literally and figuratively. Kyle Van Noy has continued to be another great diamond in the rough find for Belichick. They do struggle in coverage at times with faster running backs and certain tight ends.
Defensive backs: One of the strongest groups on the team they have not disappointed. Outside of that Tennessee game, Stephon Gilmore has been a top 10 if not top 5 cornerback in this league. Veteran Jason McCourty has been a somewhat unexpectedly solid second corner, across from Gilmore. If the last name McCourty sounds familiar to you, congratulations! His twin Devin is a long time Patriots safety. He is part of a talented trio of safeties with Patrick Chung and Duron Harmon. With contributions from others this unit has been at the forefront of the Patriots turnover streak, with a turnover forced in 9 out of 10 games this season.
Special teams: Elite special teams play is a staple of Belichick coached teams, so to see special teams, aka Kickoff and punt coverage, struggle so badly is unheard of. This unit gives up the 3rd worst average starting place for opposing offenses, so basically opposing offenses start closer to the 50-yard line against the Patriots than almost anyone else. However, Stephen Gostkowski has been playing at an elite level once again, Ryan Allen seems to have gotten better distance on his punts this year pinning offenses closer to the 1-yard line if the coverage unit can tackle.
Coaching: I will personally buy offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and special teams coach Joe Judge tickets to Cleveland because they can go take the open jobs there. McDaniels play calling is getting increasingly questionable as he seems to call run plays at strange times and struggles to get the ball to his biggest weapons, except for James White maybe, in the red zone. Brian Flores (pictured above) has done an incredible job at changing the defensive culture and getting this group more aggressive, which has shown in better QB pressure and more turnovers. I am now firmly in the camp of Flores taking over this team after Belichick. Speaking of, Belichick is Belichick and I’m not going to doubt him. I’ve learned my lesson about doubting Boston/New England coaches from Alex Cora, Brad Stevens and Bill Belichick being all knowing humans.