The Patriots are Back


AP Photo/Mary Schwalm

DOING YOUR JOB: The Patriots have the best record in the AFC, and they’ll look to keep winning and play for the bye in the playoffs.

The New England Patriots are the best team in the American Football Conference (AFC). I don’t see a rebuttal to this argument at this point in the NFL season. The Patriots sit right now at 9-4, riding a 7-game win streak, and they also own the number two seed in the AFC. Thus far, the conference has been an inconsistent mess this season with no real “best” team and results have been puzzling. The Patriots haven’t been elite, but no other team deserves the title as best in the AFC more.

You can’t tell me the Tennessee Titans are the best team in the AFC. A squad who, yes, won six games in a row against 2020 playoff teams, but also have losses to the Chicago Bears, New York Jets and Houston Texans. You can’t tell me the Baltimore Ravens are the best team in the AFC. They lost to the Miami Dolphins and have had inconsistent quarterback play from Lamar Jackson. You can’t tell me the Kansas City Chiefs are the best team in the AFC. They have turned it up as of late, but still have a lot of question marks surrounding their defense and quarterback Patrick Mahomes. 

That leaves us with the Patriots. They have been the most consistent team in the AFC in a conference full of teams without week-to-week consistency.

The Patriots started 2-4, and it was not looking good in New England. I thought this year was a wash. They did lose to the Cowboys and Buccaneers by one score, but they weren’t winning football games. But then, the tides turned. The Patriots bounced back to the tune of a six-game win streak, in which they outscored opponents 211-63. That’s domination – something New Englanders are used to.

Rookie quarterback Mac Jones has been just what the Patriots needed. Through Week 12, he has amassed 2850 yards, 16 touchdowns, and a 70.3% completion percentage. Among quarterbacks, he has had the most games with 65% plus completion percentage (10), is tied for the most games with a 95 plus passer rating (8) and in November, he had the most yards per attempt in the NFL.

Jones is having one of the best seasons a rookie quarterback has ever had. I’m not saying he’s the second coming of Tom Brady, but for a rookie, he has shown the poise and maturity of a veteran, and he is performing like the best quarterback in his class. More importantly, he’s leading his team to wins.

It’s not just the quarterback. This team is one of the more well-rounded Patriots teams I’ve ever seen.

The Patriots’ multi-pronged running attack has been torturing defenses this year. Rhamondre Stevenson and Damien Harris have led the Patriots to 1384 rushing yards this season, 9th in the NFL. When Stevenson gets the ball, he does damage, averaging 4.6 yards per carry, 14th most in the NFL for players who have carried the ball over 70 times. The two have combined for four 100+ yard running games. Having both backs playing well makes the Patriots’ run game dangerous, and sets up Mac Jones to excel in the passing game. 

The offensive line, which looked like swiss cheese in the first few weeks of the season, has finally held its own too, giving Jones more time to make decisions. The receiving weapons are some of the best I’ve seen with the Pats tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, and receivers Kendrick Bourne and Jakobi Meyers, have finally been panning out.

Meanwhile, the Patriots’ defense has been the best in the NFL. They’ve allowed the fewest points per game, 2nd fewest passing touchdowns, fewest rushing TD’s, 4th fewest yards per game, 4th lowest competition percentage, 2nd best opposing passer rating, and have the most interceptions in the NFL. They have really done it all this year. Corner J.C. Jackson has been a ball hawk this season. He has the lowest passer rating allowed since the start of last season by a country mile, and he has the second-most interceptions in the NFL with seven. Offseason acquisition at defensive end, Matthew Judon, has 11.5 sacks, which is good for third-most in the NFL, and he is constantly all over the field. 

Who’s to forget Bill Belichick, the glue that makes it all come together? The best coach of all time has altered the team’s identity since Tom Brady’s departure, and he’s done well with it.  It looked like Brady had won the Brady-Belichick divorce with his Super Bowl victory last year, but Belichick is doing what any divorceé would do: find a newer, younger model. And it’s working (jealous Tom?).

The Patriots are the best team in the AFC, and I don’t think there’s any denying that right now. They have been consistent while other “top” teams in the AFC have not been. Their schedule toughens up with the Buffalo Bills twice in the next few weeks, which are must-win games. The Patriots are coming for that number one seed, and they could very well make a run for the Super Bowl.