Before the season started, the 2017 New England Patriots were massive favorites to repeat as Super Bowl Champions. The Patriots were an underlay at 5 to 2 to win the Super Bowl. The odds eventually creeped up to 3 to 1.
After Week 1, word was that New England just didn’t have it this season. Kansas City blasted New England 42 to 27. It sure appeared as if the Patriots weren’t close to being the team that had won Super Bowl 51. The 30 to 33 loss to the Carolina Panthers 3 weeks later confirmed those suspicions.
That’s the thing. The loss to Carolina confirmed absolutely nothing. Since the loss, the Patriots have dominated. Check out our update on the 2017 New England Patriots!
2017 New England Patriots Update
I go over some statements and questions that I wrote in my New England Patriots Preview. Then, I add a bottom line about the New England Patriots.
It Starts with Terrific Tom
I stated that the New England Patriots were all about Terrific Tom Brady. Brady, called the greatest of all time by more than a few NFL analysts, is looking for his sixth Super Bowl win. That’s crazy. He’s the only QB to have ever won 5 Super Bowls. Now, he’s looking for a sixth?
That’s not the only reason that the New England Patriots start with Tom Brady. The reason the Patriots start with Tom Brady is because unlike most every other team in the NFL, the Patriots entire offense depends almost solely on the decisions of their quarterback. Brady doesn’t throw the football 50 times a game.
He does have carte blanche in deciding when to hand the ball off to any of his bevy of running backs. Only the very best quarterbacks in the NFL are allowed to audible. Only the best quarterbacks to ever play in the NFL are allowed to audible to more than 3 to 4 different plays. That’s Tom Brady.
Brady is the epitome of the mythical offensive coordinating quarterback. What’s incredible is that his stats are at an MVP level this season. Brady has thrown for 3,632 yards. He’s thrown 26 TD passes to only 4 interceptions. He’s completing 68.5% of his passes. Brady’s QB rating is a great 109.7.
Terrific Tom is so great that even when he has an off game, like he did in Buffalo in Week 13, the Pats still win and cover the spread. In Week 13, New England beat Buffalo 23 to 3 as a -7.5 road favorite. Brady didn’t throw a TD pass.
That’s how fantastic of a quarterback Tom Brady is.
Is RB Mike Gillislee better than RB LeGarrette Blount?
“Those number imply that Gillislee becomes one of the best running backs in the NFL in 2017. But, there’s a word of caution that comes with signing a player like Mike Gillislee.”
I wrote the above statement in my preview. In 2016, Mike Gillislee looked fantastic when rushing the football for AFC East rival Buffalo. Gillislee rushed for 577 yards from 101 attempts. He rushed for a 5.7 per rush average.
For a while, it felt as if the Patriots were trying to force Gillislee to become LeGarrette Blount. In Week 1, Gillislee scored 3 rushing TDs. He added another rushing TD in Week 2. Then, the Gillislee well ran dry. Although Gillislee received carries up to Week 8, he hasn’t scored another rushing TD. What’s worse is that Gillislee has averaged 3.6 rushing yards per carry this season. That’s far worse than what he averaged last season.
Tom Brady hasn’t handed the ball off to Mike Gillislee in the Patriots last 4 games. Fear not, Patriot fans. New England has become one of the best rushing teams in the NFL now that they’ve finally decided to bench Gillislee.
Behind the rushing of James White, Rex Burkhead, and Dion Lewis, the New England Patriots are suddenly averaging 120.6 rushing yards per game. In Week 13, the Pats rushed for 191 yards from 35 carries against the Bills.
Gillislee is a bust. But in classic Bill Belichick fashion, the Patriots have already admitted the mistake. They’ve also already moved on.
How is WR Brandin Cooks going to affect the Patriots’ offense?
I firmly believed that it would take time for Brandin Cooks to develop the same rapport with Tom Brady that Julian Edelman had. Edelman has been hurt this entire season. It hasn’t mattered. Cooks has been fantastic.
Brandin only averages 4.4 catches per game. Is that a problem? Nope. It’s not a problem because his yardage per catch is an incredible 16.7. He’s also caught 5 TDs this season and we’re at Week 14. Cooks has fit in nicely with New England’s strategy of switching up the offense depending on who they play week to week.
Trading the 32nd pick in Round 1 in the 2017 NFL Draft for Cooks has turned out to be a winning move for the New England Patriots.
Will the Pats’ defense be as great?
Answer: No, but it’s gotten much better
After the first few weeks of the season, it appeared as if the New England Patriots’ defense might be one of the worst in the league. No, seriously. The Patriots gave up 185 rushing yards and 382 net passing yards to the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 1. The Chiefs beat the Patriots 42 to 27. In Week 2, the defense performed better versus the New Orleans Saints in the 36 to 20 win. Still, Drew Brees threw for 356 yards and 2 TDs.
Houston rookie QB DeShaun Watson almost pulled off the upset over the Pats in Week 3. Watson threw for 301 yards and 2 TDs. The Texans rushed for 125 yards. The Patriots beat the Texans 36 to 33. Some football fans might have wanted to put a fork into New England after their 30 to 33 straight up loss to the Carolina Panthers in Week 4. The defense was absolutely horrendous in that loss.
Then, something happened. It’s almost as if the Patriots turned a switch on, and the defense suddenly got better. Some stats imply that New England’s D has a long way to go. The Patriots give up 375.7 total yards per game. That ranks 28th in the NFL. The Pats allow an average of 254.9 passing yards per game. That ranks 29th in the NFL.
But, the Patriots rank 9th in the only defensive stat that matters, points allowed per game. New England allows 18.6 points per. That’s incredible considering that New England allowed 42, 20, 33, and 33 points in their first 4 games of the season.
Bottom Line: New England is the Best Team in the AFC
There’s no other way to describe the 2017-2018 New England Patriots. The Pats are the best team in the AFC. How much better are the Pats than the rest of the conference?
There’s a 3 team bottle neck at the top of the AFC West Division. The Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders, and L.A. Chargers are all at 6 and 6. The team destined to win the AFC West are the L.A. Chargers. They’re the hottest team in that division.
The rest of the AFC East is a mess. New England just pounded Buffalo 23 to 3 in Week 13 and Buffalo is the only team with a shot at making the playoffs. The AFC South looks good, two teams, the Jags and Titans are at 8 and 4, but so what? Neither team has played what anybody would call a tough schedule. The Jaguars do have a decent defense, though.
That leaves the Pittsburg Steelers as the lone team capable of beating the New England Patriots, right? I’m not sure the 10 and 2 Steelers are much better than the 7 and 5 Baltimore Ravens. Pitt worked hard to beat Cincinnati in Week 13 while Baltimore dominated a decent Detroit Lions team.
Does that mean New England waltzes to Super Bowl 52? Not necessarily. I see three potential playoff teams that could upset the New England Patriots in the postseason. The L.A. Chargers have the right mix of defense, rushing game, and great quarterback in Philip Rivers who could come close to beating the Patriots. The Jacksonville Jaguars have the best overall defense in the NFL. The Jags could put a scare into the Pats. The Baltimore Ravens have been a thorn in Tom Brady’s side during most of his career.
Outside of the Chargers, Jaguars, and Ravens, there isn’t another team that could beat the Patriots in the AFC. And, even of those 3 teams, the only one I believe could really beat Brady and the Patriots are the Baltimore Ravens because they’ve done it before.
Terrific Tom and Coach Bill Belichick have a better than good shot of adding another Super Bowl Championship.