If you would have told me after the Week Four loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that the New England Patriots would be in first place in the American Football Conference, I would have said you were nuts. This team was far too sloppy and undisciplined to be that good. But for some reason, the Pats have completely turned their season around and went from a team that might have a Top 10 draft pick, to Super Bowl contenders.
The Patriots most recent loss took place in mid-October when the Patriots lost to the Dallas Cowboys in overtime. Since then, New England has won seven games in a row and has been the hottest team in the National Football League. So how did the Patriots go from being a mediocre team to being a Super Bowl contender?
Since the Patriots loss to the Cowboys in Week Six, they have only allowed more than 20 points just one time to the Los Angeles Chargers. There was even a three week stretch in which the Patriots defense allowed seven points or less to opponents. The offseason addition of Matthew Judon has been paying dividends in a big way as he has racked up 12.5 sacks in just 13 games. J.C. Jackson appears that he has solidified himself as a legitimate number one cornerback for the Patriots. Kyle Dugger and Miles Bryant have both stepped up in the secondary this season as well for the Patriots. If New England does wind up making a deep run in the playoffs, it will largely be due to how great the defense gas played.
In the beginning of the season, the running back position was a bit of a question mark. In the preseason, most people believed that the Patriots would have a running back platoon that consisted of Sony Michel, Damien Harris and James White. That soon changed when Sony Michel was traded to Los Angeles and James White was injured in Week Two against the New York Jets. The Patriots were then left with Harris, Rhamondre Stevenson and Brandon Bolden.
Those three have been stellar for the Patriots in the running game as of late. Both Harris and Stevenson have averaged over four yards per carry this season and Bolden has racked 303 receiving yards out of the backfield as well. Those three put on a clinic last week against the Buffalo Bills as they combined for over 200 rushing yards, while helping New England secure a victory after attempting just three passes.
A trustworthy quarterback
In 2001, the Patriots asked a young quarterback in Tom Brady to step into a starting role and make as little mistakes as possible and it ultimately led to a Super Bowl victory. So far this season, Mac Jones has emulated Brady’s 2001 performance almost to a tee; some even say he looks better than Brady did in 2001. Jones has completed over 70 percent of his passes and looks to get more and more comfortable slinging the ball downfield as the season moves on. So far this season, Jones has been making a strong case for rookie of the year, and if he can help secure the first-round bye for the Patriots going into the playoffs, he should get it.
The last piece of the puzzle that has been putting together arguably the best season of his career has been head coach, Bill Belichick. Somehow Belichick took a 7–9 team from a season ago, went into free agency, made virtually all the right moves and is leading a team with a rookie quarterback to first place in the conference. It would be a crime if Belichick didn’t win coach of the year, as he has shown that he is still easily the best coach in the NFL.