Now We Find Out What Kind of Team the 2016 Pats Are
The Patriots record after 11 weeks is 9-2, the top team in the AFC but as Bill Belichick likes to say, you don’t really know what you have in a team until November. In this team’s case, it will actually be in December. The Patriots final five games highlight four of which always give them trouble.
After the Rams game at home this week, a game the Patriots should win, is when the crucible of this season’s schedule begins. A home game against the Baltimore Ravens is followed by a road trip to Denver to face the Broncos. Then it is back home for a Christmas Eve tilt against the Jets and then down to Miami where the Patriots finish off their season against the resurgent Dolphins.
The Ravens are a team that matches up well with the Patriots, they traditionally have played the Pats very tough and they’ve proven (twice), that they can come into Foxboro and beat the Patriots in the playoffs. The Jets always play the Patriots tough, forget their record, they know the Pats well and match up well also. Replay the tape from a week ago and rest assured they’ll bring their A-game to the field against New England.
Besides having two excellent defenses that can slow the Patriots offense, are there two places that continually bring out the worst in Patriots performances than Denver and Miami. Regardless of records, the Pats seem to always play their worst football in those two cities, year after year.
The Ravens have the number two defense in terms of yards in the NFL. They’ve been stingy against both the run (74.9 yards per game), and the pass (222.9 yards per game) and have forced 19 turnovers on defense. They’ve allowed just four more points on the season than the Patriots (201-197). Watching the tape on some of their games, they like to sit back in a zone on early downs and bring the double A-gap blitz on passing downs. They can be very disruptive with DC Dean Pees.
They’ve been challenged offensively this season but we’ve seen Joe Flacco air it out many times against the Patriots and if he isn’t completing passes, they’re getting the flags to move the chains regardless. Steve Smith will be a tough matchup.
Denver, with their defense, is always a tough matchup and that is magnified three-fold when they play there. They have a fearsome pass rush and an excellent secondary. They currently have the #4 defense in terms of yards in the NFL. They’ve given up just 219 points, 23 more than the Pats.
Offensively the Broncos have the wide receivers to challenge the Patriots secondary and running back Devontae Booker is emerging for their running game. Obviously, the question mark is QB Trevor Simian. Can he rise to the challenge in the postseason? Right now, he’s banged up with an ankle injury, Paxton Lynch may start this week but facing the Jaguars, albeit, on the road, the defense should carry the day.
The Patriots just faced the Jets and the Miami Dolphins have won six in a row and have bought in completely in Adam Gase’s system. The Dolphins defense has been terrible against the run but is playing much better lately. Their offense with Ryan Tannehill has taken off and the much-maligned QB has played much better.
Those final four games will go a long way in determining who and where the Patriots play in January. In 2015, the big Sunday Night Football loss in Denver would come back to haunt them as they’d have to return there for the AFC Championship. Right now, the Broncos are on the outside looking in, due to the late OT loss to KC, but would it be a shocker to see them rallying for a playoff spot and possibly even the division? Not at all.
The AFC West will be interesting to watch down the stretch. There is a good chance that there will be three playoff teams from there, depending on if Miami can win on the road as three of their final five games are away. But with games against each other, the teams from the West could cancel themselves out of a top seed bid.
Baltimore and Miami this weekend will be an intriguing matchup. While most people point to Pittsburgh as a team that could beat the Patriots in a January home playoff game, they may be a better matchup for the Patriots. Ben Roethlisberger and that potent offense can light it up against anyone at any time, but the Patriots offense has a much better matchup against them than the Baltimore defense.
With both Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski banged up right now, the Patriots should still be able to beat the Rams fairly easily this week. It is after that we’ll find out how the 2016 Patriots will match up. Those final four games will set the table for the postseason. If the Patriots play those games at home, they have the ability to win and move on to Houston. If they have to go on the road…then it will be a bit dicey.
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: 2016 NFL Season Baltimore Ravens Bill Belichick Chris Hogan Danny Amendola Denver Broncos Dion Lewis Dont'a Hightower Jabaal Sheard Julian Edelman LaGarrette Blount Malcolm Butler Miami Dolphins New England Patriots New York Jets NFL Patriots Patriots edge rushers Rob Gronkowski Tom Brady