Normally in the week leading up to a game, I like to write an article about how the New England Patriots can defend the incoming offense. However, with this being Jets week, there’s really not much to write about. The New York Jets are arguably the worst team in the league and cannot get out of their own way. Truthfully, all the Patriots really need to do is show up in order to limit the Jets to 14 or fewer points. Since there’s not much to write about with respect to the Jets offense, let’s take a look at the New England Patriots flaws which were supposedly exposed in Week 10, and how the Patriots can overcome all of them.
First off, let’s establish that the supposed “flaws” in New England aren’t that bad to begin with. This team is far from perfect, but that can be said of every team in the National Football League. Since the Patriots humiliating loss to the Detroit Lions back in Week Three, the Patriots are 6-1 while scoring almost 32 points per game.
That said, the Patriots looked bad in Week 10. However, every single issue that came up during that 34-10 beating is easily fixable. Thanks to New England’s great coaching staff, these issues should be patched up when New England takes on the New York Jets.
Expect the New England Patriots Flaws To Be Fixed in Week 12
Tom Brady Will Improve
It’s no secret that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has not been the same guy this season. While he’s still a top-10 quarterback, he hasn’t been the same dominant force from 2015 to 2017. He’s playing closer to his 2012 form, which still makes him one of the best quarterbacks in the league.
However, Brady objectively looked bad in Week 10. Brady finished his afternoon going 21/41 for 254 yards and no touchdowns. He forced the ball to Josh Gordon and Julian Edelman while completely ignoring all of his other targets.
Fortunately, all of Brady’s errors were mental. While some claim Brady’s arm has lost some of its’ pop, the film doesn’t agree with that assessment. Brady still has just about all of his arm strength, he was just getting fooled by Tennessee’s defense.
The key to getting Brady back on track is spreading the ball around. As mentioned in an earlier article, Chris Hogan has been getting open, but Brady just hasn’t looked his way. Incorporating him and Phillip Dorsett into the passing game should open up the field for the rest of the offense.
Brady acknowledged that he needs to get more guys involved in the passing game following the loss to the Titans. The 41-year old NFL veteran is arguably the smartest quarterback in league history, so there’s no question he’ll get the offense back on track. His physical skills aren’t notably diminished, and defenses can’t consistently fool him anymore. He may not be 2016 Brady, but he’ll still be a top-10 quarterback the rest of the way.
The Offensive Skill Players Are Getting Healthy
As previously mentioned, the Patriots offense has been too predictable in the past few weeks. Fortunately, that issue should fix itself with the healthy return of Rob Gronkowski and Sony Michel. While Michel played in Week 10, he clearly wasn’t himself and wasn’t ready for a full workload. The first-round rookie recorded just 31 yards on 11 carries, but that production should increase moving forward. Given an additional week to rest up, the running back should look more like the guy who ran for 316 yards and four touchdowns over a three-week span.
Additionally, Rob Gronkowski is expected to return to the lineup in Week 12. The big tight end missed three of the last four games and has battled through ankle and back injuries all season long. Despite this, there’s plenty of reasons to believe Gronkowski will go back to looking like his dominant self for the rest of the season. Even if he doesn’t, Gronkowski has produced like a top-10 tight end all season long. Whether it’s elite Rob Gronkowski or just good Rob Gronkowski, his presence will help open up the offense.
Even the players who didn’t miss time will benefit from the bye week. Wide receiver Josh Gordon has been a godsend to this offense, but he’s had a serious issue with dropped passes. Most of this blame can be placed on his messed-up hand. Gordon suffered a freak finger injury early in Week Nine against the Green Bay Packers, leading to some unfortunate drops. The injury is reportedly minor and Gordon should be a full go for the rest of the season. If Gordon can eliminate drops, he has the potential to be a top-10 receiver for the rest of the season.
The Offensive Line is Getting Healthy
The Patriots offensive line was manhandled throughout the majority of Week 10’s matchup. In all, the line allowed three sacks and countless pressures on the afternoon. Brady was constantly under siege, and the Patriots run game had nowhere to go. Outside of the quarterback position, the offensive line is arguably the most important unit on a team. If the line continues to get overpowered on a weekly basis, the Patriots could be in for some serious trouble.
Fortunately, the Patriots offensive line issues look to be a one-week problem. New England went up against the top scoring defense in football, which on its own presents a serious challenge. However, they also did so without their top-five guard in Shaq Mason. To make matters worse, starting tackles Marcus Cannon and Trent Brown both suffered injuries during the game. Both players were clearly limited and even had to take some series off.
The Patriots won’t see a defense as good as the Titans for the rest of the regular season, and they’re getting their linemen back. Mason, Cannon, and Brown are arguably the three most important starters on the Patriots line, and their healthy presence will shore up Week 10’s pressure problem.
The Defense Isn’t As Bad As You Think
While the offense is getting healthier, the defense basically is what it is. However, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. While this defense isn’t nearly as good as the early-2000’s dynasty defenses, this unit still has the pieces to be an above-average unit the rest of the way.
Even with Sunday’s poor performance, the Patriots defense still ranks 16th in Football Outsider’s defensive DVOA. Stephon Gilmore had a bad week against Corey Davis, but he’s still the sixth-best cornerback in football, per Pro Football Focus. Trey Flowers is perhaps the most underrated player in football, and Lawrence Guy is having a fantastic season, Week 10 excluded. Kyle Van Noy is continuing to improve his game and Dont’a Hightower is slowly but surely rounding into form.
Detractors to this defense will point to Week 10’s efforts as proof that the unit simply isn’t good enough to win a Super Bowl. However, a closer look at the tape shows the defense was not the problem in the 34-10 loss.
While the Titans put up 17 first-quarter points, it’s hard to blame the defense for all of that. A special teams mishap gave Tennessee a short field for their opening touchdown drive. After a genuinely bad second drive, the Patriots limited Tennessee to a field goal even though the Titans took over at midfield. In essence, 10 of those 17 early points were more on special teams than defense.
After that drive, the Patriots defense actually forced punts on three of the Titans next four possessions. Unfortunately, the offense couldn’t do anything and the game quickly got out of hand. This defense isn’t good enough to single-handedly win games, but they’re good enough to complement the offense. This is the same unit which held Aaron Rodgers to just 17 points, after all.
Last Word on the New England Patriots Flaws
The New England Patriots have flaws, that much is undeniable. However, all of the Patriots flaws are easily fixable and should be mostly worked out by the time the Patriots take on the Jets.
The offense isn’t far off from being among the league’s elite. Tom Brady’s physical skills aren’t diminished, and his production should increase once he starts spreading the ball around. Brady acknowledged he needs to get Hogan and Dorsett more involved in the offense, and doing this should open up the field for Josh Gordon, Julian Edelman, and James White.
Additionally, the offense is finally getting healthy. Shaq Mason and Rob Gronkowski should return in Week 12, and both players are among the best in the league at their respective positions. On top of that, the extra week of rest should greatly benefit Sony Michel, Trent Brown, Marcus Cannon, and Josh Gordon. If and when the Patriots can get all these pieces working together, then there should be no limit to how good this offense can be.
While the defense doesn’t have the limitless potential of the offense, this is still a good unit. The cornerback tandem of Jason McCourty and Stephon Gilmore is among the best in the league, while Trey Flowers and Lawrence Guy are providing great play in the trenches. The defense won’t single-handedly win games, but no defense is capable of doing that anymore. As long as the offense can put up points, this defense is more than capable of keeping opposing offenses in check.
To the dismay of the Patriots haters out there, the New England Patriots aren’t going away any time soon. While the Titans game left a bitter taste in the collective mouth of Patriots Nation, this team should emerge out of the bye week better than ever.
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