Tom Brady won't be crying out in frustration all season.
Two weeks of the NFL season is a tiny sample size, just 12.5 percent of the final product. Moreover, the first two weeks are arguably the worst indicator of future performance, as the limitations imposed on training camps have essentially turned the beginning of the season into an extended preseason.
Of course, that caveat still does not hide the undeniable truth that the New England Patriots are nothing like the team their fans have come to expect. This team will not average 37 points a game this year—they haven't even scored that many in their first two games combined. On the other hand, the days of helplessly watching the opponent shred the secondary on its way to the end zone also appear gone.
Nevertheless, Patriots fans have worked themselves into a frenzy, spurred on by snap reactions from some within the Boston media. With only one game a week, football naturally lends itself to such overreactions. But as Bill Belichick likes to deadpan, the season is a marathon, not a sprint, making such judgments a foolish exercise.
The Patriots are a work in progress, and no one can reasonably argue that the Week 2 version is a serious contender. However, panicked fans have gone a little too far in forming an assessment of a ball club very different than what has come before.
The trends on this list will not immediately change, and a couple of them might even develop into long-term truths. But for now, here are the five biggest overreactions, both positive and negative, from the Patriots season thus far.
*All stats courtesy Pro Football Focus' premium section. Subscription is required.
What We've Seen
For years, Vince Wilfork has been one of the few stalwarts on a shoddy defense. Now, with the unit decisively turning a corner, the pillar of their front seven is showing some cracks.
Wilfork played 81.8 percent of New England's defensive snaps last season, and 86.8 percent in 2011, tremendous burdens to bear for a defensive tackle. At age 31, Wilfork might not only be starting to decline but could be more injury-prone due to the heavy workload of prior years.
The Jets game might have been the most visible evidence to date of that decline, as Wilfork graded out at minus-4.6 on the day, by far the worst of any Pats defender. Noted second-round bust Vladimir Ducasse ably handled Wilfork one-on-one throughout the night, a surprising development that allowed the Jets' bruising running back Chris Ivory to exploit the interior of the Patriots defense.
An optimist might say that the Jets game was simply a product of fatigue. Wilfork played 86.5 percent of the snaps after playing 81.3 percent just four days earlier. Moreover, Wilfork had a great day in Buffalo, grading out at plus-3.5, the highest of any Patriots defender.
Ultimately, any long-term concern would stem from the Pats' distressingly thin depth at defensive tackle. Undrafted rookie Joe Vellano has served ably thus far, but there is no one behind him. On passing downs, the Patriots have occasionally shifted Chandler Jones into the middle, but they will do that only in specific circumstances.
Wilfork has held up admirably for two years now, so one game should not erase all that good will. Expect Big Vince to return to his havoc-wreaking ways, especially if the Pats ever find time to give him a rare breather.
What We've Seen
Apart from a Shane Vereen burst in the second-half of Week 1, the Patriots run game has looked nothing like the unit that finished seventh in yards per game last season.
Based on a game-changing fumble against Buffalo and a largely unremarkable performance against the Jets, Stevan Ridley has failed to build upon his breakout 2012 campaign. Ridley has Pats fans holding their breaths every time he gets hit, as he has already had two fumbles and a bobble on a toss play so far.
With Vereen out, the alternatives haven't impressed. Brandon Bolden and Leon Washington have been out with injuries, though Bolden is intriguing with his pass-catching abilities that could make him the third-down back upon his return.
Meanwhile, LeGarrette Blount has averaged 2.4 yards on just 11 carries, and the heaviest kick returner in the league has not impressed in that area either.
The Patriots looked like a one-dimensional offense last Thursday, and the run game suffered accordingly. With any semblance of a threatening passing game, the run game should once again open up for New England.
What's clear is that Ridley's skills are still there. His hard-charging style has netted him 2.08 yards after contact per attempt, ninth-best among regular running backs. Bill Belichick has explicitly maintained his trust in Ridley, a surprisingly honest revelation from the Hoodie.
Fumblitis issues aside, Patriots fans should do the same.
What We've Seen
With some health and continuity on its side, the Patriots secondary is starting to recall the halcyon days of Asante Samuel and Rodney Harrison. Pro Football Focus rates Devin McCourty as its top safety so far, while AdvancedNFLStats.com ranks Kyle Arrington as the best corner in football in terms of Win Probability Added (WPA+).
And the eye test has backed up the advanced stats. Neither EJ Manuel nor Geno Smith did significant damage deep, a bugaboo of the Pats secondary in recent seasons. And when Geno tried doing so in the fourth quarter, the Patriots responded by picking him off three times.
Even with a fairly minimal pass rush—the Pats have graded out at minus-4.8 in that area, one of the lowest marks in the league—the secondary has produced, making it arguably the team's most valuable unit so far.
There is one fact that threatens to poke a hole in all that optimism, though, as the Pats became the first team since the 1960 merger to face rookie quarterbacks the first two weeks. Moreover, neither the Bills nor the Jets bear the most intimidating receiving corps.
The first true test will come in Week 4 against Atlanta, when the Pats are tasked with covering Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez. If the secondary can somehow contain the Falcons' aerial attack, then perhaps we can finally anoint them an elite unit.
To be sure, it's clear the Patriots have an improved secondary, one whose floor is probably a league-average outfit. With the offense down, though, the DBs cannot stray too far from their impressive early showings if the Pats are to emerge as serious contenders in the AFC.
What We've Seen
The numbers don't lie in this case. Tom Brady has attempted 10 passes of at least 20 yards or more and completed just two of them. Considering Brady completed only 28 of 84 "deep passes" last season, a subpar 33 percent completion rate, it's a little frightening to imagine that things have actually gotten worse.
As one might suspect, Aaron Dobson has been the primary culprit in that area. Dobson had as many drops as receptions (three) in his debut. Kenbrell Thompkins, while not necessarily more impressive overall than Dobson, actually has only one drop on 20 targets.
The slippery conditions in Week 2 paired with Brady's sideline fury certainly did not help things, but it was disconcerting to see so many lapses in concentration. Moreover, Dobson's reputation coming out of Marshall—where in his senior season, he reputedly dropped no passes the whole year—was one of a sure-handed receiver.
After Week 2's performance, that reputation is hard to fathom.
Believe it or not, this is still a promising group of rookie receivers, particularly Dobson. Drops are obviously unacceptable, but it seems highly unlikely the second-rounder forgot how to catch, especially given his reputation.
As NESN's Doug Kyed astutely points out, both Dobson and Thompkins got open rather frequently against the Jets. That reflects each player's ability to create separation, though they each do so in a different manner—Thompkins with his refined route-running and Dobson with his long strides and size.
Their timing is still a bit off; Dobson and Thompkins are having trouble getting to the correct depth when running their routes. But perhaps with the early-season stage fright diminishing, the rookies will start seeing more tangible results from their efforts.
What We've Seen
At least so far, that hypothesis is correct. The Pats have eked out wins over teams that are probably in the bottom third of the league.
As you might suspect, the Patriots are lucky to be 2-0. Check out this handy chart from AdvancedNFLStats.com that plots offensive and defensive performance. Essentially, the top right would be the best possible result, while the bottom left would be the worst.
The Pats have had a slightly below-average offense and a slightly above-average defense. Notice how the teams around them (i.e, the Jets, Tennessee Titans, Miami Dolphins, Bills, Cleveland Browns, etc.) don't exactly strike fear.
At this point, the Patriots have only their reputation to strike fear into opponents.
Things change dramatically from the beginning of the year.
And for all the hubbub surrounding the Patriots, this is actually a fairly complete team. The defense looks solid and well balanced, with the potential to be a top 10 unit if they remain healthy. The running game still has talent, and the returns of Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola will undoubtedly help in the second half of the season.
New England's only true weakness is at the receiver position, a deficiency in which, unfortunately, is a paralyzing flaw in today's NFL. Now of course, simply staring at the calendar will not fix that issue. The Patriots concerns are very real, and only marginal improvement will not be good enough.
But for some time now, the regular season has not truly mattered for Pats fans: Does anyone consider the 16-0 season satisfying? If winning the Super Bowl requires development and positive momentum heading into the playoffs, then the Patriots certainly still have an opportunity to fulfill their championship-or-bust aspirations.