In the Starting Line-up
Join Date: Mar 2007
Are the Patriots underrated?
A few days ago I started a thread on whether the Giants were overrated, looking at their last 5 games versus the rest of their season. Well, with the vast majority of experts picking the Giants, due to all the holes the Patriots have, I thought we should reverse the question and ask if they are now underrated.
Consider why people are underrating the Pats:
- They haven't played anybody (just one win against a team that finished with a winning record).
- Their defense is terrible, especially their secondary, and they will get shredded by a good pass offense.
- They have no running game.
- The Pats' OL will get manhandled by the Giants' DL.
Let's take these one at a time.
They haven't played anybody
This meme has been floated around for several weeks now. It is true that they haven't played the hardest schedule of all time, but you can only play who *is* on your schedule. You can't play phantom teams. The Giants may have beaten the Packers while the Patriots haven't, but the Pats never had a chance to even play the Packers, so we'll never know what would have happened. Maybe the Packers would have dropped 8 passes and committed 4 turnovers and the Pats would have housed them like the Giants did. Who knows?
Perhaps more important than the final record of the teams the Pats played is the record of the teams they played when they played them. For example, if team X and Y both play team Z, but X plays Z when Z is hot and healthy, while Y plays Z when Z is injured and on a cold streak, we're not talking apples to apples.
Here's the Pats' schedule and the record of the teams they played when they played them:
Team (record, streak)
W at Mia (0-0)
W vs SD (1-0, W1)
L at Buf (2-0, W2)
W at Oak (2-1, W1)
W vs NYJ (2-2, L2)
W vs Dal (2-2, L1)
L at Pit (5-2, W3)
L vs NYG (5-2, W2)
W at NYJ (5-3, W3)
W vs KC (4-5, L2)
W at Phi (4-6, W1...over NYG)
W vs Ind (0-11, L11)
W at Was (4-8, L1...and the next week they beat NYG at NY)
W at Den (8-5, W6)
W vs Mia (5-9, W1)
W vs Buf (6-9, W1)
W vs Den (9-8, W1)
W vs Bal (13-4, W3)
So the Pats have gone 9-3 against teams at .500 or better at the time they played them. And they've gone 3-1 against teams that are "hot" (defined as entering their game with NE riding a 3+ game winning streak). That sure looks a lot better than saying "the Pats have only beaten one team with a winning record".
Moreover, the Pats and Giants have played 6 common opponents, comprising 9 total games (they played each others' division, plus 2 games against their own division opponents). In those 9 games against common opponents, here are their team records:
Factor in their one head-to-head game, and in those 10 games, NY is 7-3 and NE is 8-2. In the second half of the season against common opponents, the Pats were 5-0 while the Giants were 3-2.
Their defense is terrible
During the regular season - especially the first 4 games - the Pats' D was brutal. They allowed an average of 24.5 ppg and a whopping 477.8 yards per game (368.8 passing) over those first four games. But look at this trend:
1st 4 games: 24.5 ppg, 477.8 ypg, 368.8 passing
Last 12 games: 20.3 ppg, 388.9 ypg, 269.0 passing
2 playoff games: 15.0 ppg, 325.0 ypg, 195.0 passing
So the defense is improving steadily. I realize they haven't exactly been playing the top level QBs in the league the 2nd half of the year, but still, there is no question - from the stats and from observation - that they are playing a lot better lately.
This is totally cherry-picking I realize, but consider this: the Bills went up 21-0 against the Patriots in the first quarter of their last regular season game. From that point on, the Pats shut them out. Over their last 11 quarters they've given up a mere 30 points, which comes to just 2.7 points per quarter. The Giants, during their amazing 5-game run, have given up 67 points, which, if you count their OT as an extra quarter, comes to 3.2 points per quarter. Just sayin'......
They have no running game.
During the regular season, the Pats ran for 110.3 yds/g, which ranked them 20th in the league. Meanwhile, the Giants ran for 89.2 yds/g, which ranked them dead last. The Pats averaged 4.0 ypc, which ranked them 24th. Meanwhile, the Giants averaged 3.5 ypc, which ranked them dead last. The Giants had 6 fumbles to the Pats' 3. By every meaningful statistical measure the Pats' running game is better than the Giants.
During the Giants' last 5 games, they have done this:
Team (rush D rank): rush yds gained
at NYJ (#13): 115 yds
vs Dal (#7): 106 yds
vs Atl (#6): 172 yds
at GB (#14): 95 yds
at SF (#1): 85 yds
During the Pats' last 5 games, they've done this:
Team (rush D rank): rush yds gained
at Den (#22): 141 yds
vs Mia (#3): 119 yds
vs Buf (#28): 138 yds
vs Den (#22): 146 yds
vs Bal (#2): 96 yds
So the Giants faced better run defenses than the Pats have, but the Giants have averaged 114.6 yds/g on the ground over their last 5, while the Pats have averaged 128.0 yds/g on the ground over their last 5. Simply put, if the Pats' have no running game, neither do the Giants, since by every meaningful measure the Pats have a better running game than the Giants do.
The Pats' OL will get manhandled by the Giants' DL.
The Pats allowed just 32 sacks this year (#9 in the NFL) for 173 yards (#6 in the NFL). In their head-to-head matchup, the Pats allowed just 2 sacks, 2 TFL, and 3 QB hits.
In games against top 10 sack defenses here's what the Pats' O-line has allowed:
at #1 Phi: 1 sack, 6 TFL, 2 QB hits
vs #3 NYG: 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 3 QB hits
vs #3 Bal: 1 sack, 2 TFL, 3 QB hits
vs #7 Dal: 3 sacks, 7 TFL, 8 QB hits
at #10 Den: 2 sacks, 5 TFL, 3 QB hits
vs #10 Den: 0 sacks, 1 TFL, 2 QB hits
at #10 Mia: 1 sack, 3 TFL, 3 QB hits
vs #10 Mia: 4 sacks, 4 TFL, 8 QB hits
vs #10 Was: 1 sack, 0 TFL, 6 QB hits
AVG: 1.7 sacks, 3.3 TFL, 4.2 QB hits
During the playoffs, the Pats' O-Line, against the #3 and #10 pass rushing defenses, has allowed just 1 sack, 3 TFL, and 5 QB hits.
In other words, against the best pass-rushing teams in the league this year, the Pats' OL has done a *tremendous* job protecting Brady and keeping their opponents out of the offensive backfield. The Giants sure have the ability to get to the QB, but the Patriots have the ability to protect the QB like few other O-lines do.
In sum, the Pats are actually being *underrated* despite being 13-3 (now 15-3) and the #1 team in the AFC, despite having the clear statistical edge over the Giants, despite having the better QB, coach, TE, OL, overall offense, running game, passing game, scoring defense, etc. This is not to say that the Pats will win or even should be favored. But it's amazing to me that their chances are being dismissed by so many so-called experts.