By James Galvin
Well, here we are, officially at the halfway point of the NFL Season. The New England Patriots are 6-2, and despite a lot of injuries and questionable personal moves, the team has managed to show signs of making another playoff run.
However, win and loss records can be deceiving. One must look at what happens in a game to truly judge a team accordingly. So far this season, the story of the New England Patriots has been about the offensive line and Tom Brady. Remember a mere month ago, following a demolishing performance by the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday Night Football, that a large group of Patriots Fans were saying that Brady was “washed up?” Some started calling for the arrival of Jimmy G at QB.
I think we can agree now that all of that was a little overreaction. The Patriots are coming off of their most impressive win of the season, beating a Bears team that (at least offensively) is elite. You’ll have to take my word on that, since offensively the Bears did absolutely nothing against New England.
You might be asking yourself, “where’s the significance in week eight being the ‘best’ week for the 2014 Pats?”
Well, there are number of caveats in this win that are hidden underneath the scoreboard. One being that this was the first game the Patriots were playing without Chandler Jones. Jones, who is perhaps the Patriots most dynamic pass rusher, is down with an injury and will miss some significant time. However, this game showed no signs of the team missing Jones. Constant pressure was put onto Bears QB Jay Cutler, which resulted in numerous rushed throws and sacks.
The most important difference that separates week eight from all of the other wins accumulated from New England this season is the offensive line. Not their play per-se (but it is worth noting the offensive line played outstanding) but more of who was playing. For the first time this season the Patriots had the offensive line they’ve wanted since they traded away Logan Mankins. If these players can stay healthy and protect Tom Brady, I fear for the rest of the AFC (including the Denver Broncos).
On a side note, keep your eye on backup running back Jonas Grey. Yeah, I know he is coming off of the practice squad, but with Ridley done for the season, I expect Grey to receive lots of carries, and if this past game is any indication, he is capable of handling the load. I know I’ll be picking him up on my fantasy team this week.
Finally, can I really give an accurate overview of the latest win without mentioning how there were three ‘Gronk Spikes’ this week? I personally felt my house shake from the impact.
At the halfway point of this season, I would say that the Patriots are in an excellent spot. Their division isn’t the greatest (don’t be fooled by Buffalo’s record), so a playoff spot is all but guaranteed.
The Patriots have shown that their defense is near the top of the league, and I expect it to stay in the upper-echelon of the NFL. If the offensive line can stay intact, I expect Brady to continue to put up offensive numbers that he is capable of.
The wide receivers (Edelman and LaFell mainly) seem to have gained the trust and confidence of Brady, and let’s not forget about the emergence of tight end Tim Wright, who has found himself in the end zone more often than not.
However, these next six weeks will be a test for the Pats as they play the Broncos, Colts, Lions, Packers, and Chargers. All of those teams are potential playoff teams, so how do the Patriots stack up compared to them? We will surely have an answer in number of weeks.
James Galvin is a Comment Contributor.