If you’re still sleeping on the New England Patriots, it’s time to wake up. After a huge 36-13 victory over former #1 seed Tennessee Titans, the Pats are hitting their stride. Riding a 6-game win streak, and outscoring their opposition 211-63 during this stretch, the Patriots look unstoppable. There isn’t any real weakness on this team. Rookie quarterback Mac Jones is putting together as strong a case as ever for rookie of the year. Matt Judon and J.C. Jackson have carried the defense to sights not seen in multiple seasons. They’re making statement wins week-in-week-out.
With the Buffalo Bills up next on Monday Night Football, they have a real shot at closing up this AFC East race early. So let’s do a quick overview of how this team looks, some key things to look at on both sides of the ball, and evaluate just how far this Patriots team can go.
Notes On The Offense
What ailed the Patriots last year has become one of their biggest strengths this season. The quarterback play has been phenomenal. Over the past six weeks, Mac Jones leads the league in passer rating (106.4), he throws a catchable ball 85% of the time which leads the league, he’s second in yards per attempt (so much for being a “pea-shooting, check-down king”), tossing 9 touchdowns and just 2 interceptions in this win streak. What he’s doing as a rookie signal-caller is unheard of. All with receivers and tight ends whom most are no more familiar with the system than he is.
Kendrick Bourne, acquired in free agency off of the 49ers, has been a key to the Pats’ success through the air. He has 42 catches for 623 yards and 5 scores over the season. Posting his best game last week with 5 catches for 61 yards and two impressive touchdown grabs. Fellow receiver Jakobi Meyers continues to impress, filling the shoes of future hall of fame receiver (yeah, I said it) Julian Edelman in the slot. Despite avoiding the endzone like the plague, he leads the team in catches with 61 total receptions and has been a key target for Jones on third-down, ranking top 10 in converted third-down receptions with 14. Nelson Agholor has yet to prove to be a true threat for the Patriots. He’s shown flashes but has yet to put together a complete effort.
The tight ends have also gone from worst to first for the Patriots. Despite a miss-communication in the endzone, Hunter Henry has been an absolute stud for the Pats. This week though, it was Jonnu Smith‘s time to shine versus his former team. Being my X-Factor last week in my preview, Smith didn’t disappoint. He caught three huge passes for 49 yards and even took a handoff to convert for a big first down early in the game. When the run game isn’t available, which it wasn’t this week, the Pats can certainly get it done through the air.
Notes On The Defense
Edge rusher Matt Judon has quickly become possibly the best acquisition in all of free agency last off-season. he continues to rack up the sacks with 11.5 on the year, tacking on yet another on Tannehill on Sunday. Despite being consistently double-teamed, he can’t be neutralized. The pass rush hasn’t been better for New England, and it certainly helps that the Patriots have a secondary loaded with ball-hawks. J.C. Jackson is playing himself into a big-time contract with 7 interceptions on the year. Meanwhile, Adrian Phillips, Kyle Dugger, and Devin McCourty continue to add support.
The big concern for this team continues to be the run defense. They rank 25th in rushing yards allowed. If it wasn’t for the turnover-hungry defense, this team could be in a serious predicament. Had the Patriots played Derrick Henry last week and not Dontrell Hilliard and D’Onta Foreman. We could very well be talking about a totally different game. Nevertheless, the Patriots took advantage of their break and pounded on the Titans. Running away with the game after halftime and never looking back.
The Patriots got a huge win in their brutal four-game stretch. With the Bills next Monday, they look forward to a bye week, then the Colts on Saturday Night Primetime and the rematch with Buffalo in Gillette Stadium to finish it off. The key to this stretch is to stay healthy and prepared. With a bye week as late as they have, the health is the most worrisome. Though the Patriots battled through a long injury report last week and had no starters sitting out versus the Titans. Hopefully, this remains the same over the next six days.
As for the preparation part of this, that will almost never be an issue with Bill Belichick, who has a record of 35-7 versus Buffalo since becoming head coach of the New England Patriots. Though coming off a year where the Pats were swept by the Bills, and blown out horrendously at home a season ago. One thing is for sure, this team is light years ahead of what they were a season ago, already topping their win total from last year, and plenty of room to grow. Come playoff time, Gillette Stadium could be hosting a playoff game since before the COVID-19 pandemic. What a way to usher in the Mac Jones era that would be. And we all know once you’re in the playoffs, anything can happen! I’ll see you on Friday for the preview.