Each season, New England Patriots fans are spoiled by a continuation of dominance by Tom Brady and company. It’s widely assumed among the fanbase that the Patriots will march to the playoffs for the nth-consecutive year, and not obtaining the number one seed is considered a ‘down year.’
After four weeks of dominance on both sides of the ball, NFL experts and analysts predicted a 16–0 perfect season for the Patriots. However, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Yes, this Patriots team is dominant and looks to be firing on all cylinders. However, in today’s modern NFL, it is extremely difficult to reach 16–0 due to the depth of talent in each division. The Patriots also have an extremely difficult schedule and have multiple injuries on its offensive line that continue to mount each week.
Last season, New England’s offensive line — led by offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia — was rated one of the best in the league, allowing only 21 sacks in the regular season and protecting Brady throughout the playoffs.
However, this year’s offensive line looks far different. Former Patriots left tackle Trent Brown signed the largest free-agent deal for an offensive tackle in NFL history with the Oakland Raiders, while center and co-captain David Andrews, left tackle Isaiah Wynn and right tackle Marcus Cannon are all currently dealing with injuries.
The loss of all three current linemen is detrimental. The running game is drastically worse as Sony Michel can’t find any holes, and once the Patriots start facing stacked defensive lines, Brady will be pressured and will have less time to accurately throw darts, which ultimately leads to more turnovers.
For the first half of the NFL season, the Patriots are essentially waltzing to an 8–0 start. After starting 4–0, the Pats’ next four opponents include none with a winning record — including the 0–4 Washington Redskins, who are coached by theincompetent lunatic Jay Gruden, and the 0–3 New York Jets, who are operating on their third QB in as many weeks.
It’s a cupcake start; however, during the following five weeks of the season, the Patriots play the Baltimore Ravens, Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys, Houston Texans and finally finishing the gauntlet with the Kansas City Chiefs. The tail end of the weeks 9–14 schedule presents an incredible challenge, as the Cowboys, Texans and Chiefs all possess potent offenses and coaching staff that are known to give Belichick headaches. It’s nearly impossible for the Patriots to win out during this stretch given their current roster. No matter how well-prepared Bill Belichick is for the gauntlet, the wear and tear of these consecutive brutal games will show toward the end of the stretch. If the Patriots can go 3–2 through this stretch, I’d call it a victory.
To clarify, I still believe the Patriots will inevitably clinch a playoff spot for the 11th straight season and have a viable chance at making the Super Bowl. Nonetheless, the road won’t be easy, but Brady and Belichick have endured harsher challenges.