How Long Can the Patriots Sustain This Type of Winning?
The New England Patriots' 35-14 win over the New York Giants Thursday night wasn't pretty. Sure - New England is still undefeated - but when you look at the overall play by the Patriots during the Week 6 victory, it seems like they have more to worry about than most teams would after rattling off six straight wins.
New England's defense scored yet another touchdown in Week 6 - marking their third of the season - which came on a fumble recovered for a touchdown by linebacker Kyle Van Noy. The special teams unit blocked their second punt in three games and return it for a TD as well.
While getting those types of big plays can separate a championship caliber team from the rest of the pack in the NFL, having an offense that struggles to produce points, which New England has been dealing with for three straight weeks, can dull any hopes of continued success.
Against the Bills, Redskins, and Giants, the Patriots showed that their glaring weakness has been their offense. Injuries haven't helped as of late - Josh Gordon missed a majority of Thursday night's game with an injury along with tight end Matt LaCosse and full back Jakob Johnson - but that doesn't make up for the poor offensive line play and overall lack of execution on offense for a full 60 minutes of play yet again.
The two touchdowns scored by Tom Brady on the goal line against the Giants display not only a team putting their trust in their 42 year old QB to push the pile into the end zone, but also how this team struggles to produce in meaningful situations and can't rely on their backfield or offensive line to get the first down consistently.
But with all this being said - they still won. They beat New York by three touchdowns and still managed to win the game despite many issues on offense. New England is first in the AFC East, first in the conference, and only one of two undefeated teams in the league, the other being the 49ers.
While the Patriots can sneak out wins like that against less than formidable opponents, the question that bares asking is: How long can they sustain this type of winning?
The answer is simple, and it boils down to their schedule.
To close out the month of October, New England travels to face the Jets and then host the Browns. New York will have Sam Darnold back in their lineup by then, which should lead to a more competitive game (one would think), but they are still the Jets, so a win should be in the works for the Patriots. Cleveland has imploded this season despite a ton of talent on their roster, so getting a win against them should be a tougher, but realistic goal for New England in Week 8.
When November comes around is when winning will be harder to come across for the reigning Super Bowl champs. New England plays the Ravens, Eagles and Cowboys next month - all of which have winning records right now, and rightfully so for their strong play this season. Each of those teams is top-10 in the league in points per game. Both Philadelphia and Dallas have top-10 defenses in terms of yards per game allowed. They also face the Texans and Chiefs to open up December, so the going doesn't get easier after Thanksgiving.
Against those teams, it's hard to imagine the Patriots can have inconsistent offensive play and come out with a win. Yes, their defense will continue to play at a high level. But when they finally start to face some formidable offenses, the defense will be less productive than we've seen, even if they still sustain a high level of play. Scoring points will be more of a necessity for the offense at that point. Right now, between injuries, play calling, and execution, it's not crazy to think that poor offensive play like we've seen from New England could have them 0-3 in the month of November.
Having rookie first round pick N'Keal Harry, starting left tackle Isaiah Wynn, and/or full back James Develin return from IR down the line will help boost the Patriots offense. However, only two of those players are eligible to be taken off IR this season and Harry and Wynn's impact against strong opponents has yet to be seen.
Whether it's by trading for an asset, signing a free agent, or fixing the issue in-house, New England needs to right their ship offensively over the next couple of weeks if they want to stay atop the conference and continue winning late into the regular season.