Coming into Week 17 the New England Patriots have another chance to clinch a bye week in the playoffs. This season it would mean more than others to be given this opportunity. The AFC and NFC are seemingly wide open and there is only one team with a multitude of experience and that is the New England Patriots.
There is no more experienced combination of coach and quarterback than Belichick and Brady in the NFL. However, there will always be questions about this team leading into the playoffs.
Is this a championship level defense? Will the Patriots skill players come to shine when the lights are the brightest? Does a highly likely injured 41 year old Tom Brady have the ability to take us to the promised land?
Despite a 10-5 record and a 10th straight AFC East championship, many (including myself) have thought this team has underachieved. Gronk on the field in Miami for the last play defensively, the Josh Gordon acquisition, and numerous questionable playcalling situations have left Patriots fans stunned on certain weeks.
Gronk has lost about three steps and Gordon only worked out for 11 weeks in New England. Each player with their differences on why they weren’t able to maximize their capabilities this season.
Luckily, the body of Gronk will continue to be with us for the rest of the season (knock on wood) but Josh Gordon ended up on the commissioners exempt list yet again. Gordon, a player whom was luckily enough to get this chance to play again, probably just had his last one in the National Football League.
Fortunately, the Patriots are able to lean on a backfield which is able to run well and also catch the ball exceptionally well. James White is the main culprit in situations which can call for a run or pass but 1st round pick Sony Michel and recently healthy Rex Burkhead aren’t bad options (in the least bit) either.
Tom Brady hasn’t been doing what he’s known for this season either- getting the ball to the open man. Brady is not only missing open receivers, he’s also forcing the football into bad spots which he didn’t in the past. The most notable example (this season) obviously occurring during the Week 15 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The offense must be the driving force in Week 17 and beyond to propel the Patriots to success. I do not feel this a championship level defense and with the high powered offenses scheduled to make the playoffs- they are going to have to outscore teams.
The likelihood they will be able to piece the offense together (to get playoff wins) without a talent like Josh Gordon is surprisingly likely. With under utilization of players like Chris Hogan and Phillip Dorsett, it will be essential to expose them more in the coming weeks. Hogan has shown displeasure on the sidelines and I’m sure in the locker room with his role with the team this season after having a bigger role in the prior season.
When many were willing to write them off, I held my criticism back on the Patriots for a while. This is not a team you can judge on its record. It a team you must judge on where it is going. Have faith in Tom Terrific and Mr. William Belichick- those guys are hungry to add to their legacies and should during these upcoming playoffs.