Patriots fans, we have been spoiled in the best way possible. Since the drafting of a quarterback by the name of Tom Brady (ever heard of him) in 2000, there has been nothing but success. With 5 Super Bowl victories, 6 straight trips to the AFC Championship game, and countless divisional titles all in the same era, one could argue it as the greatest sports dynasty of all time. One attribute of this dynasty that has allowed it to exist as long as it has is the ability to not get too high or low, always focusing on the next opponent.
With this being said, The Pats have a tough task at hand with the San Diego Chargers coming to Foxboro, a team who despite being the 5-seed, finished with a better record than New England. The bar could not be any higher for The Pats, with Super Bowl winning expectations being set each and every year. However, this year has not been the prettiest if you consider these standards...
An 11-5 record and number 2 seed in the AFC would be exceptional for many teams, but not the Patriots. All season, there has been criticism of how the franchise is going downhill, how Brady is looking significantly worse, etc. As for myself, I will admit that I have been skeptical at a few points over the course of the season. But, right now, I am as confident as I’ve ever been in this team.
You can look at these five regular season losses however you want, but the bottom line is that New England did not lose to any playoff teams in the regular season, playing their best football when it mattered most. Five losses all coming on the road to non-playoff teams does demonstrate some let down, especially in week 14 against the Miami Dolphins, which there is no need to get into. However, wins against Houston, Indianapolis, and Kansas City, just to name a few, outweigh the losses to mediocre teams. Let’s also take into account how much peaking at the right time matters when making a playoff run. In every sport, getting hot at the right time can carry a team further than expected.
Despite playing the Bills and Jets the last two weeks of the regular season, The Patriots looked as strong as they have all season, proving to be a balanced football team. The defense, who struggled at certain times throughout the season, gave up a mere 10.7 points per game in the final three weeks of the regular season, putting less pressure on Brady and the offense to put up big numbers. Even so, the offense still looks to be clicking, as they typically do this time of year. Despite laying an egg offensively week 15 on the road in Pittsburgh, they have followed up that lackluster performance with two imposing ones. Week 16 displayed the improved rushing attack, as this deep running back group rushed for 226 yards on the day. Week 17 was more of a passing day, as Brady completed 24 of 33 passes, throwing four touchdowns in a 38-3 routing of the Jets.
For TB12 in particular, who has taken some serious heat at times this season, his stats are not too far down from last season, as shown below.
He may not be throwing the ball as much down the field, but as far as I am concerned, the quarterback’s job is to simply keep getting first down after first down until the ball is in the end zone. Brady, in a non-flashy type of way, has done that. The offense is ranked fourth in points per game in the NFL with 27.1, being able to run and pass effectively, something they struggled to do both of in 2017. This offense has developed more balance this season with running back Sony Michel making an immediate impact. The rookie out of Georgia has rushed for 931 yards and 6 touchdowns on the season, while also missing a few games due to injury. With teams respecting the run much more this season, the play action has opened up more, making it less predictable what Brady and the offense are going to do with the ball.
So, before people start saying “the dynasty is over,” let’s take a step back and look at who we are dealing with. This team has proved “experts”, and people all across the country wrong for years now. This is not me guaranteeing a super bowl, but it would not be the strangest thing to have happen. This is not the same personnel they have had compared to years past, but core players are still there on both sides of the ball. If history has taught us anything, the flashiest, most talented team does not always win the big one, as Pats have been the less talented team in a couple of their Super Bowl wins such as Seattle, yet the more talented team in a 2007 SB loss to the Giants. So, let’s just buckle up and enjoy the ride. Time to get that sixth ring, Pats Nation.