If the playoffs had been beginning proper now, the New England Patriots could be the AFC’s sixth seed. They’d get an opening-round matchup with the Tennessee Titans, adopted by a probable highway gig in opposition to the Kansas Metropolis Chiefs. It’s a tricky path within the already daunting American Soccer Convention. That stated, if any crew goes to return out of the AFC that isn’t the Chiefs, Payments, or Dolphins, I’ve a sneaky suspicion the Patriots could possibly be that crew.
Let me make one factor clear. Mac Jones isn’t a Tremendous Bowl-caliber quarterback. He’s not elite in any metric. Because it’s wanting proper now, he’ll by no means be the man that helps the Patriots win the AFC East. That stated, they don’t appear to wish that. New England solely wants a stout protection, good offensive line play, and a bunch of working backs able to methodically pushing the ball downfield. Guess what? The Pats have all the above.
All New England wants is for his or her protection to maintain it within the sport, and that’s been the case all season. The one video games the place it hasn’t been the case had been in opposition to the Bears and the Ravens. We’ll get to these in a second. New England has arguably the strongest protection within the league, and it’s been capable of maintain groups just like the Jets to twenty factors complete in two video games, the identical quantity the Jets scored of their lone sport in opposition to Buffalo, extensively thought of probably the greatest defenses within the NFL. The Patriots did this all whereas not taking the Jets’ offense critically. Head coach Invoice Belichick even admitted to wanting previous the Jets and onto the Vikings forward of their Week 11 matchup, and bear in mind, the Jets had been forward of the Patriots within the standings previous to this contest.
Now, the place the Pats appear to wrestle is in opposition to cell quarterbacks. They’ve solely had two video games this yr the place opponents have scored greater than 25 in regulation, the aforementioned Ravens and Bears. Each video games noticed the opposing quarterbacks rush for 107 and 82 yards respectively. New England is unimaginable at shutting down a passing sport. Actually, the Pats are permitting the fourth-fewest passing yards per sport and the second-lowest passer score of any protection within the league, however wrestle to include the quarterback as soon as he’s outdoors the pocket. I wish to emphasize too, it’s not that these quarterbacks are beating them by way of the air as soon as they get outdoors the pocket. Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson ranks 14th in passer rating outside the pocket. Justin Fields ranks thirty first. Neither has been extremely efficient in that situation. It’s their legs.
The Patriots’ mixture of excessive blitz fee (28 p.c, which is Twelfth-highest within the NFL) and elite protection makes them very sack-happy (36, second-most within the NFL). In addition they have the very best QB hurry share within the NFL (14.8 p.c) and the second-highest strain fee (29.8 p.c). Nonetheless, these tendencies additionally depart loads of room open forward of the road of scrimmage, and any elusive quarterback that may evade the strain can have a number of room to run. That makes guys like Lamar Jackson, Justin Fields, Jalen Hurts, Josh Allen, and perhaps Patrick Mahomes all of the extra harmful in opposition to New England. On the identical time although, it makes guys who fold below strain like Kirk Cousins (lowest passer score below strain in NFL amongst certified QBs) appear to be they’re seeing ghosts. That’s why I’m taking the Patriots in a landslide this Thanksgiving by the way in which.
Due to this, the Patriots even have an excellent matchup in opposition to a number of of the AFC’s high contenders: Cincinnati, Tennessee, Miami (though they misplaced to them in Week 1, I really feel New England has improved since then), and Los Angeles. These are all groups the Patriots may see within the playoffs. It’s simply as probably that New England faces Buffalo, Kansas Metropolis, or Baltimore and will get bounced within the Wild Card Spherical, but when the playing cards fall proper, they may do some critical harm.
The rest of the Patriots’ schedule isn’t straightforward with two video games left in opposition to Buffalo and matchups with Cincinnati, Minnesota, and Miami nonetheless on the horizon. These shall be benchmark video games to find out the Pats’ viability within the postseason. It’s clear that if the Patriots need any likelihood of doing harm come mid-January, the offense must present indicators of life. That stated, there’s loads of cause to be optimistic. In the event that they’re wanting strong proper now with Mac Jones taking part in among the worst soccer of his life, they will completely be contenders if Jones beneficial properties a little bit confidence down the ultimate stretch of the common season.