Alden Newman-Pats Militia
It hasn’t been the start many of us were anticipating. Critical injuries, struggling defense, and inconsistent offensive line play have derailed hopes of 19-0. But looking at the big picture, there’s nothing to worry about. Like the sun rising each morning, the Patriots are leading the AFC East. I can’t complain about a 6-2 start, and the team seems to be trending upward as the season progresses. So with a pause in the action of the season here at the midpoint of the season, it seems like an appropriate time to analyze the numbers behind the first half of the 2017 campaign.
Let’s start with the good: the offense. Not surprisingly, the Patriots lead the NFL in total offensive yards per game. They lead the second place Saints by almost 20 yards. The Pats are also sixth in scoring. Their 46% third down conversion rate ranks third in the league. The Patriots have also earned a +4 turnover ratio, an area of their game that Belichick prides himself on.
It has not been all sunshine and rainbows for the Patriots team though. Their defense has allowed more yards per game than any other team, and by a pretty hefty margin. Stopping opponents’ passing attack has been the team’s biggest weakness, and their 295 passing yards per game allowed leads the league. In part, this is a result of their inability to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks. They rank in the bottom half of the league in sacks. Uncharacteristically, the Patriots also have racked up the second most defensive penalties, and the seventh most penalty yards (Thank you, Stephon Gilmore).
When it comes to individual performances, Brady is always going to take the cake. The 40 year old ranks first in passing yards, tied for third in touchdowns, fifth in completion percentage, and also boasts the second highest QB rating. The only concerning number is one that Brady has very little control of, and that’s how much he’s getting sacked. It is completely unacceptable for Brady to have been sacked 21 times already this season. He must be protected at all costs. If Brady keeps on pace from the first half of the season, he’ll finish the season with 5,082 yards, 32 TDs, 4 INTs, and a good chance for another MVP trophy to add to his collection. Another standout has been Brandin Cooks, who has been effective in just his first year with the team. He currently has the fifth most receiving yards in the league, and his 17 yards per catch rank sixth best. Gronk isn’t too far behind him, currently ranking thirteenth in receiving yards. In terms of touchdowns, Gronk and Chris Hogan are amongst a group of players tied for sixth most. Without Edelman, these guys have really stepped up. Cooks is on pace for a 66/1126/6 season. Gronk is on pace for 68/1018/10. And Hogan is going to miss some time in the second half of the season, but he was on pace for 66/876/10. There are no real standouts in the run game. It has been a collective effort so far. Gillislee started the season with a splash, scoring four touchdowns in his first two games. However, he has seen his role diminish since then, and has not scored a touchdown since Week 2. He leads the team in carries, but with just 98 attempts.. James White is being used almost exclusively in the passing game, but has been very effective in that role. He leads the team in receptions with 43, and is averaging 8.5 yards per catch. Recently, Dion Lewis has been seeing a lot of action. He only recorded 58 carries in the first half, but that should number should be a lot bigger in the second half of the season. Lewis’ 4.7 yards per carry not only leads the Patriots backfield, but ranks in the top ten amongst all NFL running backs.
Although they have struggled to start the season, there are some guys on the defense that deserve some recognition. Devin McCourty, the leader of this defense now that Hightower is sidelined, leads all non-linebackers in the league in total tackles, and is tied for third amongst all defensive players. Kyle Van Noy, now an integral part of this defense, is tied for seventh in the league in total tackles. Van Noy is also tied with Trey Flowers for the most sacks on the team with 3.5. Those two, along with the rookies Deatrich Wise and Adam Butler, are going to have to get more pressure on opposing quarterbacks for the Patriots defense to be successful.
Again, all of the gripes about a 6-2 team just show how spoiled we are as Patriots fans. But with eight games in the books, I feel very confident in this team. And as we all know, football games don’t mean too much until January. And when that times comes, there’s no better team than than the one we got.