Pats Nation: Mid-Season Grades
The Patriots are coming off of a Week 9 bye with an AFC-leading 7-1 record, and they couldn't have asked for the first half of the season to go any better. Not only were they able to come out of TB12's 4 game suspension with a 3-1 record, but also for what seems like the first time in years they actually aren't dealing with any injury problems. The season thus far has consisted of mostly high points, with the only low point coming in a 16-0 shutout at home with an injured 3rd string rookie at quarterback. There were a lot of questions the Pats faced coming into the season, and now the only question really is who can stop this team from winning another Super Bowl? They are heavy favorites in Vegas, and with an easy schedule the rest of the way expect New England to lock up the #1 seed sooner rather than later. It hasn't been all-good, with some clear struggles on defense throughout the season resulting in the shocking trade of Jamie Collins. But the offense has been so unstoppable since Brady has returned that we're just outscoring teams, it doesn't even matter how many points we give up. Add that to the fact that the Pats are about to get one of their most dynamic playmakers back in Dion Lewis, and the rich just get richer. So let's dive into midseason grades:
The only things stopping them from earning an A+ here is the fact that they've fumbled the ball a bit too much this year and they were shut out at home for the first time in ages. Aside from those two blips, this offense has put up numbers no matter who is at QB. For the first game and a half of the season, Jimmy G showed the league that he is in fact a quality starter, and was absolutely lighting up the Dolphins before leaving with an injury. Since Brady's return, he not only has the highest QBR in the league, but he has thrown 12 TD's without throwing a single interception yet. In fact, NO QB on the Pats has thrown a single interception yet. All of Brady's new weapons have integrated into the offense seamlessly; especially Bennett and Hogan, and they're about to get even stronger with Dion Lewis.
New England has kept up their reputation of having a "bend but don't break" defense, and it's been good enough to get them by this season. They're giving up 16.5 points per game, which is good enough for 2nd best in the league, but the numbers suggest that their defense is better than it really is. The run defense has been horrible, so it's a good thing that teams are always trying to play catch up against us and are forced to be one-dimensional. They've also carried on the trend of making mediocre QBs look like Hall of Famers, which is very concerning. Tannehill in the 2nd half, Tyrod Taylor twice, even Landry Jones had success against us. You know Belichick didn't like what he was seeing from the defense because the Collins trade was intended to get their attention, and hopefully it worked.
Special Teams: B
Gostkowski's struggles are real. Ever since he missed that Extra Point in the AFC Championship, he's been in a funk. He's missing Field Goals that are layups to him, and that's not even mentioning the fact that he's missing extra points as well. His stellar work on kickoffs helps to offset that though, as the Pats' opponents usually start drives within their own 20. We've had games when Special Teams has won us the game (vs Texans) and games where it's brought us L's (vs Bills). But Gostkowski just made a 50-something yard field goal last game, so hopefully that gets him back on track.
Everyone, including me, thought this team would come out of Brady's suspension 2-2 in a best-case scenario. And NO ONE thought we would win game 1 against the Cardinals. But Belichick and co. showed once again why he's the best in the biz. Most teams are out here racking up the L's with their starting QB, let alone winning with a 3rd string Rookie QB. Josh McDaniels will be a hot commodity as he is annually when head coaching gigs open up, and Matt Patricia won't be far behind. Whether it's the game plans constructed for Jimmy G and Jacoby Brissett, or starting the trend of forcing teams to return kickoffs, Bill is always prepared.
Looking forward to this Super Bowl rematch Sunday Night, it's most likely a Super Bowl 51 preview as well. See y'all in February.