Sports

NFL 2019/20 : Who can stop the New England Patriots?

In the early hours of Friday morning (UK time), the New England Patriots beat the New York Giants 35-14, to move to 6-0 on the season to date, and continue what seems an irrepressible stroll to yet another AFC East Divisional Title, playoff appearance and – as looks ever more likely – yet another SuperBowl appearance – and quite probably another SuperBowl win.

Such has been the dominance of this franchise, that, assuming the inevitable happens and the Patriots do win their Division, if nothing else, this will be their 11th consecutive Divisional win, and 16th since 2002 out of a possible 18. No other franchise in the modern era can claim anything like this stunning success in a sport where teams do well to defend titles in back to back seasons – let alone virtually every year in two decades.

The Patriots entered this season as defending Champions, having seen off the Los Angeles Rams in SuperBowl 53. But, whilst starting the season as favourites, there was a feeling that legendary Head Coach and Quarterback duo of Bill Belichick (above) and Tom Brady would be passed by younger, fresher teams on the rise – such as Patrick Mahomes and his explosive Kansas City Chiefs…..elusive QB Lamar Jackson and his powerful Baltimore Ravens….stud QB/RB combo Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott at the Dallas Cowboys…maybe even a more experienced and ‘been there’ repeat attempt by defeated SuperBowl opponents Los Angeles Rams, still headed by Jared Goff. But Brady & Co have started the season seemingly ever more determined to leave the rest of the NFL and the millions of fans around the world in little doubt….that they are still, very much, THE team to beat.

The Patriots remain the AFC’s only 100% side. Indeed, only the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC hold a 100% record, but have played (to date) two games less than the Pats, with every other team having been beaten at least once. The scorelines from the Patriots six games so far shows not just that they have won the games – but have won with apparent ease – with only the Buffalo Bills holding the Patriots to a scoreline that shows any semblance of respectability :

Mon, 9 Sep vs Pittsburgh Steelers 33-3
Sun, 15 Sep vs Miami Dolphins 43-0
Sun, 22 Sep vs New York Jets 30-14
Sun, 29 Sep vs Buffalo Bills 16-10
Sun, 6 Oct vs Washington Redskins 33-7
Fri, 11 Oct vs New York Giants 35-14

It is fair to say that the Patriots opening schedule has been quite soft. Of the six teams played, only the Bills have a winning record so far, with three of their opponents (Jets, Redskins and Dolphins) having lost every game played to date. Across the rest of the season, there will be more tests to come. After what looks a gimme win in week 7 against the Jets again, the Patriots then face the Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens, Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles in successive games, with the Houston Texans & Kansas City Chiefs lying in wait thereafter. They end the season with a nice looking three games against the Bengals, Bills and Dolphins.

But what is making heads turn towards the Patriots again is not the talents and exploits of Tom Brady and his offense. It is the Patriots defense. This hitherto decent, but middle the road, unit have become the NFL’s #1 defensive unit – generating, in six games, a stunning 16 turnovers (14 interceptions, 2 fumbles), are conceding an average of just over 8 points per game, and allowing just over 234 yards per game – again, easily the best in the NFL, having played at least one game more than every other team – two in some cases.

All this – and Tom Brady, for all his age and slowing down – is currently ranked second in the NFL for passing yards for any QB. Not bad for this 42 year old veteran.

Included in last nights victory over the Giants was another milestone for the ageless Brady. On an early completion to Sony Michel, Brady moved into second place in the NFL’s all time Passing Yards table, overtaking Peyton Manning to move one behind Drew Brees. Brady was, as usual, modest about his own personal achievement : “I think having a lot of perspective on things like this is where I like to come from. I don’t believe football is an individual sport. So any individual accomplishment, to me, is always a team accomplishment. There is nothing you can accomplish in football without everybody else doing their job. I think I’ve always taken to football because of that.”

The Patriots have won 6 SuperBowls to date – and have appeared in 4 of the last 5 SuperBowls. On this form, Brady and this ball hawking, opportunistic, defense may well make those figures 7 SuperBowl wins and 5 of the last 6 appearances. So far, no one else seems capable of stopping this dominant force.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS – SUPERBOWL APPEARANCES TO DATE 

  • 1986 vs Chicago Bears – LOST 46-10
  • 1997 vs Green Bay Packers – LOST 35-21
  • 2002 vs St Louis Rams – WON 20-17
  • 2004 vs Carolina Panthers – WON 32-29
  • 2005 vs Philadelphia Eagles – WON 24-21
  • 2008 vs New York Giants – LOST 17-14
  • 2012 vs New York Giants – LOST 21-17
  • 2015 vs Seattle Seahawks – WON 28-24
  • 2017 vs Atlanta Falcons – WON 34-28
  • 2018 vs Philadelphia Eagles – LOST 41-33
  • 2019 vs Los Angeles Rams – WON 10-3