So far, the New England Patriots have played two weeks of football that have hardly lived up to the expectations of the last three years, or even earlier this offseason. Could anyone have predicted that Tom Brady would be forced to play the New York Jets with Julian Edelman as his only reliable receiver?
It's been bad enough that the Boston Globe's website posted an article this morning titled "Brady's biological clock sounds alarm."
But Patriots fans really shouldn't worry. Here are five reasons why.
Stevan Ridley rushes against the Buffalo Bills
Although they won't get style points for their wins, the simple fact remains that the Patriots are 2–0, with both wins coming in the division. They're already a half-game ahead of the Dolphins, a full game ahead of the Jets, and a game-and-a-half ahead of the Bills.
Yes, their most difficult games are ahead, but getting off to a good start can only help.
While the statistics don't look extraordinary on paper, the defense is playing better. In the first game, the defense only gave up 13 points, despite being handed some terrible field positions as a result of the Patriots' offensive woes.
Against the Jets, the Patriots notched turnover after turnover in the fourth quarter to preserve the 13–10 win.
Doug Kyed of NESN has done an excellent job breaking down the Patriots defense over the last two weeks: among other things, the Patriots, after having no sacks against E. J. Manuel, got four against the equally mobile Geno Smith.
Again, the Pats' biggest tests are yet to come, but they aren't routinely giving up 300-plus yards in the passing game, as they did an AFC-high 14 times in 2011 and 2012.
Thankfully, the Patriots managed to navigate the preseason without losing any expected starters for the season. And their three best offensive weapons—running back Shane Vereen, wide receiver Danny Amendola and, of course, all-everything tight end Rob Gronkowski—should return over the next few weeks.
Moreover, their rookie receivers—Josh Boyce, Kenbrell Thompkins, Zach Sudfeld and Aaron Dobson—should improve with time. They may not become the next Randy Moss or Rob Gronkowski, but they should improve with more game reps.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is among the best coaches in NFL history at adapting to circumstances. The Patriots are chameleons, constantly adapting to whatever situations befall them. (A great example of this is that in their last three games in snow, the Patriots outscored their opponents in the first half by a combined score of 109–0.)
The single best example of this is the fact that under Belichick, the Patriots have tended to play better at the end of the season than at the beginning.
In the last eight games of each season, though, the Patriots have compiled a record of 83–21—a full 13 games better than any other team over the same span.
As long as Tom Brady's on the field, the Patriots will be in almost every game they play. Even a 21-point lead isn't safe when No. 12 is waiting to take the field.