One week into October and solely two groups are unbeaten within the NFL. If it’s considerably shocking to see the San Francisco 49ers sitting at 4-0, the identification of the opposite half of the undefeated duo is all too acquainted.
Eight months on since profitable Super Bowl LIII, the New England Patriots are 5-Zero and in complete management of the AFC East, with an 11th consecutive divisional title seemingly a formality.
For all their qualities, the Patriots aren’t famend for being quick starters and that is solely the fourth time since Bill Belichick arrived in Foxborough they’ve received their first 5 video games.
In 2004, New England received its first six video games, earlier than ending the season with a 14-2 document. Three years later, they accomplished the proper common season with a 16-Zero document and in 2015 they received their first 10 video games, earlier than operating out of steam and dropping 4 of their subsequent six video games.
In truth, all through the Belichick period forecasts of demise have been wheeled out as nearly invariably New England misplaced within the opening weeks of the season, just for the Patriots to make a mockery of these predictions and embark on one other blistering profitable run.
This yr, nevertheless, the dynamic is totally different. The Patriots have sprung out of the blocks and the query is now not whether or not Father Time might lastly be about to cease Tom Brady, however whether or not the six-time Super Bowl champions can go one other season undefeated.
New England has the joint-second best schedule within the NFL and has used it to its benefit to this point. It is not any coincidence that of the 5 video games the Patriots have received, the closest was towards the Buffalo Bills, who’re at the moment the one group with a document above .500 amongst New England’s first 5 opponents.
Beginning with Thursday night time, the Patriots host the New York Giants and the Cleveland Browns and journey to New Jersey to face the New York Jets.
The Giants and the Browns are each 2-3, however are experiencing totally different sorts of rising pains. The G-Men have changed Eli Manning with Daniel Jones below heart, and whereas the rookie quarterback has proven promising indicators, the absence of Saquon Barkley has clipped the wings of an already blunt offense.
The Browns, in the meantime, proceed to battle to stay as much as their preseason hype, with Baker Mayfield enduring a troublesome second season within the NFL.
The Jets, in the meantime, have a reputable declare at being the worst group within the league and it might be removed from shocking to see New England journey to Baltimore on November Three with an 8-Zero document.
After the sport towards the Ravens, the Patriots have a bye in Week 10 after which face 4 video games that can in all chance decide whether or not they can emulate their unbeaten run from 2007.
Belichick’s males journey to Philadelphia in Week 11, earlier than internet hosting the Dallas Cowboys the next week and touring to Houston to play the Texans in Week 13.
They then welcome the Kansas City Chiefs in Foxborough in Week 14 in a rematch of final season’s AFC Championship Game.
The two groups are anticipated to satisfy on the similar stage this season and the matchup at Gillette Stadium may nicely decide who will end because the top-ranked group within the AFC.
Aside from a house recreation towards the Bills, the remaining three weeks of the season are little greater than a cakewalk for the Patriots, who play the Cincinnati Bengals on the highway and the Miami Dolphins at residence.
As was the case in 2007, the Patriots could have a bye in Week 10 and as was the case in 2007, three of their remaining seven video games are on the highway. Historical omens aren’t the one motive for optimism in New England.
New England’s level differential at the moment stands at +121, the second-best scoring margin within the NFL period, behind solely the 1999 St. Louis Rams, who boasted a +123 level differential on the similar stage of the season.
However, whereas The Greatest Show on Turf obliterated opponents on the again of a high-octane offense, the Patriots depend on a suffocating protection that might legitimately be thought of considered one of Belichick’s best items.
New England has the perfect protection within the league, permitting a meager 6.Eight factors per recreation to this point.
To put the unit’s dominance into context, the Patriots protection ranks first within the NFL when it comes to factors and yards allowed, third-down conversion, sacks, interceptions, takeaways, first-downs allowed, passing yards and passing touchdowns allowed.
On the opposite aspect of the ball, the Patriots common 31 factors per recreation however have regarded rustier than figures recommend. The void left by Rob Gronkowski’s retirement is but to be correctly stuffed and the Patriots’ receiving corps stays worryingly skinny.
At the identical time, New England ranks 11th in complete offense and sixth in passing offense and betting towards Brady and Belichick stays an almighty gamble.