Following the Cowboy’s second loss to the Giants, the Patriots have been returned to their regularly scheduled programming spot atop most of the nation’s various NFLpower rankings. But could this team still be underrated? Or rather, under-covered?
Between Tom Brady’s season-opening suspension and the storylines of teams for whom success is much rarer than the Patriots (ahem, Oakland) New England’s steady chug towards the number one seed in the AFC has gone rather by the wayside. If that’s the case, what’s going partially unnoticed is the Patriots most dominating season since the ultimately ill-fated 2007 team that ran (but mostly passed) through the regular season undefeated. Perhaps after their game on Monday night against the Ravens the nation's eyes will start paying more attention.
The Patriots lead the league with a plus-155 point differential. At 39, Tom Brady is lighting up the league. He’s averaging 8.5 yards per attempt, a full yard higher than any season since 2011. His quarterback rating, 113.6, and completion percentage, 68.5, are higher than any season save 2007. He’s thrown 22 touchdowns to just two interceptions, the best ratio of his career. And finally, Brady is coming off a 400 yard performance against the AFC’s now second ranked defense. (Baltimore had allowed the fewest points through 12 games; now it is the Patriots that have allowed the fewest through 13.)
In case you didn’t notice (or aren’t playing fantasy football) he did it without Rob Gronkowski. Gronk has only started six games for the Patriots this season and is done for the year. The Patriots most dangerous weapon and leading receiver of the past two years has only accounted for three touchdowns this season after finding paydirt 23 times over 2014 and 2015. Those three opening games the Patriots won without Brady? Gronk didn’t catch a pass in any of them either.
This team, missing its best two offensive players, shocked the Cardinals on opening night in Arizona to start their season of decline, beat the Dolphins, who look like a potential playoff team, and blanked the AFC South leading Texans on national TV 27-0.
LeGarrette Blount is spearheading a rushing attack the like of which hasn’t been featured since Corey Dillon’s first season in New England. Blount has already topped 1,000 yards (with 1,029 he is fifth in the NFL,) the first Patriots running back to do so since Stevan Ridley hit the mark in 2012. His 14 touchdowns lead the league. He’s only getting stronger, averaging 5.3 yards per carry over the Patriots current four game win streak, which, by the way, coincides with Dion Lewis’ return to the lineup.
This week they’ll have their opportunity for revenge for last year’s playoff loss to the Broncos. And when they win, in Denver, no one will bat an eye. It’s what we expect. This is a team that we all fully expected to see winning in September with Julian Edelman at quarterback. It’s hard to exceed those expectations.