By Jack Belanger ’21
There is no team hotter right now in the NFL than the New England Patriots. Even though it is early in the season, the Pats have shown hardly any glaring weaknesses on either side of the field. They are already outscoring their opponents 76-3, highlighting the fact that this team will not have to heavily rely on quarterback Tom Brady to carry them through what will be another perfect 16-0 season.
The offense will be more dynamic in how it can attack defenses this season than it has been in past seasons. The Patriots’ top three receivers are Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, and newly acquired Antonio Brown. As long as injuries or off-field issues do not plague these players, Brady will have three guys that have served as the number one option for their teams at one point in their careers.
Even if a team has a strong enough secondary to slow down the passing game, the Patriots have a strong enough backfield in Rex Burkhead and second-year player Sony Michel, who was just 69 yards short of getting 1,000 rushing yards in his rookie season.
On the other side of the field, New England boasts an elite defense that can win games if the offense is having an off day. Just this past week, they intercepted the Miami Dolphins four times, including two that ran back for touchdowns. The McCourty brothers and Stephon Gilmore have yet to allow 300 passing yards in a game, and held pro-bowler Juju Smith-Schuster to only 78 receiving yards in their Sept. 8 game against the Steelers.
As great as this team is, their schedule will also play into their favor. New England only has five games against teams that finished with winning records last year and they have already won in Miami, a typical trap game for them in recent seasons. The AFC East once again looks like it will be a runaway as the Buffalo Bills, New York Jets, and Miami Dolphins are all rebuilding with inconsistent quarterbacks. The two toughest games to watch out for will be against the Kansas City Chiefs, who feature reigning league-MVP Patrick Mahomes, and the Baltimore Ravens who are also 2-0 this season behind dynamic quarterback Lamar Jackson.
No matter how good your team is, going 16-0 involves some luck. During their perfect season in 2007, New England had four games decided by single digits, including a three-point win over the New York Giants, the eventual Super Bowl Champions, in the season’s final week. That season, nine players from the team made it to the Associated Press All-Pro teams: six on offense and three on defense. This year the Patriots have a similar balance, and it will other require teams to think outside of the box in order to beat them.
By Cam Smith ’21
Sports Assistant Editor
After an opening night drubbing of the Pittsburgh Steelers and a dominant win in Miami on Sunday, the nation is abuzz with talks of the New England Patriots going undefeated in the 2019 NFL season. The talk is understandable, as the Pats have assembled a team that boasts an absurd amount of talent. They also still have the greatest quarterback of all time at the helm, which certainly helps.
However, even with all this talent, the Patriots will not go undefeated. It is simply too difficult to remain on top of your game for every single quarter of a grueling 16 game season. A missed field goal, a tipped pass, or an untimely fumble can decide a game, and even a team coached by Bill Belichick is not immune to mistakes.
Only two teams in the modern history of the NFL have gone undefeated, showcasing just how difficult it is to pull off. The 1972 Miami Dolphins went 14-0 during the regular season and followed that up with a perfect postseason to capture the Lombardi Trophy. The other team to do it was the 2007 Patriots, who went 16-0 during the regular season before falling to the Eli Manning led New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII.
The 2019 Patriots certainly have a lot in common with that 2007 team: a star-studded receiving core, a lockdown defense, and a superb quarterback-coach combination.
Yet, perfection is nearly impossible to duplicate. Even the 2007 Patriots had some close calls, including just a three-point victory over the Giants in week 17 of the season. In week 13, the Baltimore Ravens led 24-17 in the fourth quarter. The Pats required a Jabar Gaffney touchdown with 44 seconds remaining to squeak out a victory.
No one is questioning that there is a possibility that these Patriots can go undefeated, but it is just not statistically probable. Close games went their way in ’07, but the final seconds of games may prove to be different this year.
Consider the week nine matchup against the Ravens as a potential game where the Pats may falter. Second year quarterback Lamar Jackson poses a dynamic threat with his rare mix of blazing speed and arm strength, and M&T Bank Stadium has always proven to be a difficult environment for a road team to come into. The Ravens will also be well-rested coming off their bye week, while the Patriots will be entering their ninth straight week of play.
Overall, there is no doubt that the Patriots are the favorite to win Super Bowl LIV, but to expect a perfect season in addition to a championship is simply asking for too much.