By: Jake Mackey
Bill Belichick has long said that real football teams come alive after Thanksgiving. Well, Thanksgiving is just about a week away and the New England Patriots sit in a three way tie for the top spot in the AFC, with a 7-2 record. However, there is not a great feeling about this team amongst the fanbase.
Two years ago at this point in the season the Patriots had an identical record, and fans were optimistic as they had just beaten the defending AFC Champion Denver Broncos by three touchdowns. Currently, the Patriots are coming off a last-minute loss to the perennial power Seattle Seahawks. A game in which the defense played putrid, and the offense came up short when they were counted on the most.
It was eerily reminiscent to the Patriots teams of 2009-2011, which were some of the most frustrating Patriots teams to watch because frankly those teams were soft. They were the early 2000’s Peyton Manning lead Colts. The offense would light up the scoreboard, but when they were hit with a tough opponent with a hard-nosed defense, and a good quarterback they turtled. The Ravens and Giants have feasted on Patriots teams like that over the years.
That is what I fear most about this Patriots team, because they have shown all of those attributes thus far. Yes they have won a few games convincingly, but who have they played? The only real challenges they have faced were week one in Arizona which was a good win, but the defense still failed them, and last week against Seattle in which they were bullied all over the field by a more physical opponent, which is the textbook way to an early vacation in January.
The sentiment around the area right now is that the Patriots will not see another challenge for another three weeks when they face the Baltimore Ravens. Nevertheless, in the time being against the 49ers and Jets on the road they need to control the game and not lead games creep into the fourth quarter. Particularly this week in Santa Clara, because the 49ers simply put are not a good team sitting at 1-8.
Let us not forget after a devastating loss in Denver last November, the Patriots came home without Rob Gronkowski, and botched a game against Chip Kelly’s lowly Eagles. Now we are in virtually the same situation, with Chip Kelly also on the opposite side of the field. No pooch kicks with Nate Ebner this week Bill, just win the game and win it convincingly.
The following week is understandable if it is closer. Even though the Jets have been horrendous this season with a 3-7 record, Metlife Stadium has always been a tough place to play for the Patriots. The following week against the Jared Goff lead Rams in Foxborough, the Patriots just need to dismantle that team, no excuses.
After this little three week stretch against sub-par opponents, the Patriots have their most important two week stretch with a Monday night game against Baltimore then on the road in Denver. How confident I am going into those games will be determined over the next three weeks. They need to convince myself and many other Patriots fans that they are a mentally tough football team.