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Can the Patriots go 16-0?

Patriots

The New England Patriots look better than ever. And that is saying a whole lot.

Much to the chagrin of opposing fans, and those who are just tired of watching the Patriots dominate seemingly every year, they look Super Bowl ready once again.

That point is not up for debate. They are certainly one of the two best teams in the AFC, and will most likely end up in the AFC Championship game for the eighth consecutive year. Barring a massive upset, of course.

What is worth discussing is whether Belichick and Brady can repeat the ridiculous feat they pulled off in 2007; Going undefeated.

Here, we will delve into their schedule and team make-up to measure if they can do it again.

Schedule

AFC East & Travel

The Patriots have already played one game against a rebuilding team in the Miami Dolphins. It ended in a 43-0 embarrassment of the Dolphins in South Beach.

It could realistically be said that every other team in the AFC East is in either a soft or full-blown rebuild. That is definitely arguable, considering the Bills’ record and efficiency in the first two games. But, Buffalo did just draft Josh Allen last year, and their overall depth is something to be shored up before talking about deep playoff runs. So, for the sake of argument, we will assume the Bills still have some rebuilding to do.

The Jets lost Sam Darnold to mononucleosis for at least four weeks, and then lost backup Trevor Siemian to an ankle injury for the rest of the season. Their offense features Le’Veon Bell and not much else, especially in the way of receiver. And, as previously mentioned, the Dolphins are a dumpster fire tanking and trading for picks.

Patriots
Linebacker Chase Winovich celebrates against AFC rival Miami. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

All of this is to say that New England could very easily go 6-0 in divisional play. Apart from their trip to Miami, which they got out of the way in Week 2, the Patriots also have minimal traveling to do inside their division. That makes a big difference.

In fact, the Patriots travel the fifth least amount of miles in the entire NFL, at 9,906. Around 1,500 miles have already been knocked out in one trip.

Good teams travel well, and the Pats are nothing if not a good team. But the effects of traveling long distances cannot be understated, and New England does not have much to worry about in that regard in 2019.

“Easiest” matchups

Having already mentioned the four to six games (depending on opinions of Buffalo) against bad and rebuilding teams in their division, the Patriots play three more teams on some step of the rebuild stage.

They play the Washington Redskins in Week 5. The Redskins are currently riding veteran journeyman Case Keenum until they feel their first-round draft pick Dwayne Haskins is ready to take the field. They are currently 0-2 with losses against the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles.

Week 6 brings the New York Giants into Gillette Stadium. In a high-profile move, the Giants have chosen to bench two-time Super Bowl Champion Eli Manning in favor of the much-maligned sixth-overall selection Daniel Jones. They are also 0-2 after losses to Dallas and Buffalo.

Finally, in Week 15 the Patriots travel to Cincinnati to take on the Bengals. The Bengals, infamously, had a historically bad defense last year. They also feature a bad offensive line and a first-year head coach in Zac Taylor. Cincinnati is also 0-2 on the year with a one-point loss to Seattle and a 41-17 drubbing at the hands of the 49ers.

This means that, arguably, eight of the Patriots 14 remaining games are immediately winnable. New England will certainly be favored in all of these games, to say the least.

“Toughest” matchups

Diving deeper, the Pats only face three teams outside of their division with 2-0 records. These games come in Week 9 in Baltimore, Week 12 against Dallas and Week 14 against Kansas City.

All of these games could result in a loss for the Pats. Most especially Kansas City, who took New England to overtime in the 2018 AFC Championship. However, it helps that game will be in the dead of winter in Foxborough.

Patriots
Tom Brady calls an audible during the Patriots’ AFC Championship win against the Chiefs. (Photo by Ed Zurga/EPA, via Shutterstock)

Baltimore’s offense has grown leaps and bounds in Lamar Jackson’s second year. The Cowboys seem to be dialed in, most especially Dak Prescott, who has seven touchdowns in two games. It is worth mentioning, however, that all four of these teams’ combined wins have come against three of the aforementioned rebuilding teams (Dolphins, Giants and Redskins).

The games not discussed yet come against the Texans, Browns and Eagles, who beat the Patriots in Super Bowl LII.

The toughest of these will be the Eagles, in Philadelphia. A high-powered offense that has defeated the Pats on the biggest stage in sports is nothing to write-off. The Texans are having trouble closing games and protecting Deshaun Watson, and the Browns still have plenty of big question marks.

If one is looking to the Patriots schedule alone to determine if they can go 16-0, the answer is that it is entirely possible. The biggest game to circle here is Kansas City in Week 14. Other than that, the path is laid out clearly. It could happen.

Defense

This Patriots defense is truly scary.

Going back to Super Bowl LIII, they have not surrendered a touchdown in three straight games. They have given up a total of six points on two field goals. Opponents in those three games combined gained 752 yards, for an average of 250.1 yards per game. Two of those opponents featured what were expected to be high-powered offenses (the Rams in Super Bowl LIII and the Steelers in Week 1).

These numbers are already historic. And New England has the opportunity to build on them even more against the Jets in Week 3, who are down to their third-string quarterback, Luke Falk.

According to Matt Dolloff of 98.5 The Sports Hub, the Patriots’ defense could give up 29 points, 104 rushing yards and three touchdowns and still set franchise records through the first three games of a season. The only one of those that seems to even be in the realm of possibility is 104 rushing yards, as RB Le’Veon Bell is essentially the entirety of the Jets’ offense at the moment.

In this historic three-game span, the Pats have collected six interceptions. The defensive back play shows no signs of slowing down, either. The front seven has been equally effective giving up 136 yards total for an average of 43.3 rushing yards per game.

These numbers speak for themselves. Simply put, this defense will be great until it proves itself otherwise. If defense wins championships, then Brady and Belichick may be on the way to their seventh Super Bowl win and second 16-0 campaign.

Offense

The ageless wonder Tom Brady continues to prove why he is one of the great ones.

This season, all he has done is go 45-65 on passing attempts, good for almost a 70 percent completion rate, and throw five touchdowns. He also has not been picked off since his one interception in last year’s Super Bowl.

New England’s rushing game is not quite lighting up opposing defenses so far this year, but 225 yards in two games against both a mediocre and bad defense, respectively, is just fine. Look for second-year player Sony Michel to build off of his good rookie campaign when Belichick wants to take the pressure off of Brady’s arm.

Antonio Brown

Then there is their newest offensive weapon, Antonio Brown.

Pat
Brown scores his first touchdown as a Patriot against the Miami Dolphins (Photo by Barry Chin/Boston Globe)

Putting aside all of the drama both on and off the football field, Brown is easily one of the five best wide receivers in the league. The Patriots got him for next to nothing after he was released by the Raiders, and even if he proves to not be viable to keep, the risk was supremely low.

The timing of the acquisition could not have been better, either. As he was ineligible to play in the Week 1 matchup against the Steelers, he made his Patriots debut against the dreadful Miami Dolphins. What this essentially means is that Brady and Brown could treat this like a preseason matchup. They could pick on the Dolphins’ bad defense and use it to experiment and test Brown’s knowledge of the new system.

Brown caught four passes on eight targets for 56 yards and one touchdown. Expect those numbers to balloon exponentially if he can remain with the team.

In short, Brady has not lost a step, the rushing game will more than likely trend upward and the offense has their best weapon since Randy Moss in 2007.

Lest we forget, that was the last time the Patriots went 16-0.

Conclusion

The point of this article was to ask one question: Could they possibly do it again?

The answer is a resounding yes.

To sum up the points above, the Patriots have the best defense they have had since Tedy Bruschi suited up. They have a quarterback who refuses to show his age, get injured or stop playing at an insanely high level. They now have one of the top five receivers in the league on a (virtually) no-risk deal. The “evil genius” Bill Belichick is still wearing the headset. Their schedule could permit an undefeated season, apart from a few tough matchups. And if a hole appears suddenly, they have a front office that pulls off steals in the trade market like nothing the NFL has ever seen.

This dynasty may end one day, but it will not be in 2019. And if they do go 16-0, NFL fans may as well enjoy it, because there is not a single thing they can do to stop it.

 

Featured Image courtesy of Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

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