New England Patriots First Half Report Card
The New England Patriots So Far This Season
The New England Patriots reign at the top of the AFC East is in no jeopardy of coming to an end any time soon, as the Patriots enter their bye week with a 7-2 record. The Patriots have the fourth best record in all of the NFL, with only Denver, Seattle, and the unbeaten Kansas City Chiefs fairing any better. New England remains the third favorite to win the Super Bowl, behind only the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks. A dominating 55-31 victory of the hapless Steelers on Sunday, has New England looking like the only team in the AFC that can compete with the Denver Broncos.
Before looking into which team will actually represent the AFC in the Super Bowl, let's take a look at what the Patriots have done so far this season.
New England opened the season with a divisional match-up against Buffalo. The Patriots have dominated their divisional counterparts ever since Tom Brady took the helm, and the season opener proved to be no different. Perhaps "dominating" is not the best word to use to describe the Patriots victory of the Bills in Week 1, but nevertheless, a Stephen Gostkowski field goal with five seconds left in the game, sealed the victory to begin the Patriots season 1-0.
Week 2 yielded the ugliest win Patriot's fans have endured in a while. The hated rival New York Jets came to Foxboro for Thursday Night Football. The Patriots defense grinded out a 13-10 win, forcing turnovers, and getting sacks, to bail out the offense, and set the Patriots up with a 2-0 record.
New England finally put a strong outing together in Week 3. They beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23-3. It cannot be ignored that Tampa Bay has yet to win a game all season, but regardless, the win would give the Patriot's their first 3-0 season start since 2007.
The New England Patriots finally looked the part in Atlanta during a week 4 match-up with the Falcons at the Georgia Dome. Tom Brady delivered a great performance, and the defense made a game winning goal line stand against Matt Ryan and the Falcons offense to keep the Patriots undefeated.
The Patriots stayed on the road, with a trip to Cincinnati the following week. Tom Brady entered the game with a 52 game touchdown streak, but couldn't find the end zone in Cincinnati, and the Patriots suffered an embarrassing 13-6 defeat. The Bengals handed New England their first loss of the season, and a week 6 game against the undefeated New Orleans Saints was looming largely.
The 5-0 Saints came to Foxboro behind quarterback Drew Brees, and head coach Sean Peyton, looking to repeat their 38-17 dominating win over New England back in 2009. With 1:13 left to play, it looked like the Saints were going to get their wish. Then Tom Brady did what Tom Brady does. With less than 90 seconds to play, and no timeouts, Brady marched the Patriots down the field. A field goal would not be good enough, only a touchdown could win the game. Then with 5 seconds left in the game, Brady rifled a pass to the corner of the end-zone, and rookie Kenbrell Thompkins came down with the game winner, giving the Saints their first loss of the season, and pushing New England to a 5-1 start.
The Patriots finally seemed like they might be able to hit their stride, until a week 7 overtime loss to the Jets, which proved to be more than a setback. This loss made it clear that the Patriots were inconsistent, and the inconsistency went all the way up to their fearless leader, Tom Brady. The defense failed to give a solid performance, and the offense came up short. A penalty call in OT, set the Jets up for a game winning field goal to bring the Patriots to 5-2.
The week 7 loss had New England fans in partial panic mode, and only a decisive win against the visiting Miami Dolphins in week 8 would help. The Dolphins took an early 17-0 lead, and the Patriots looked worse in the first half than they did against the Jets the week before. I don't know if they passed out Wheaties in the locker room, or Belichick managed to get fired up enough to deliver a motivational speech, but the Pats came out in the second half and scored 27 unanswered points, to stun the over matched Dolphins, and go up 6-2.
This past Sunday the Patriots looked like the offensive juggernaut that has dominated the AFC for the past five seasons. They humiliated a Steelers defense, by piling up 610 total yards, which is the most ever allowed by a Steelers team in franchise history. In the process, Tom Brady threw 4 TD passes, while the Patriots scored an NFL season high 55 points. The commanding offensive performance gives New England a week off to think about their 7-2 record, and get ready for their next opponent, the Carolina Panthers on Monday Night Football, with a home game against Denver the following week circled on everybody's calendar.
New England and Denver seem like the only real contenders in the AFC, with the usual contenders like Pittsburgh, and Baltimore, faltering heavily this season. Cincinnati remains a legitimate playoff team, and New England won't forget the loss the Bengals handed them earlier in the year. Andrew Luck has proven that the Indianapolis Colts are a team to be reckoned with, by giving Denver their only loss of the season, in Peyton Manning's return to Lucas Oil Stadium. One of those four teams will represent the AFC in this year's Super Bowl, with the rest of the conference looking nothing short of pathetic. There will be no Ravens team to spoil a Tom Brady v.s. Peyton Manning AFC Championship game this time around, and unless the other teams in the AFC can start competing again, that is exactly what we will get.
New England Patriots letter grade after first half: B+
Patriots Next 5 Games
8:40 PM (MNF)
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@ New England
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The New England Patriots do not look like the dominating team that we have seen in years past, but each one of those dominating teams, including the undefeated team of 2007, has come up empty when it counts the most. The 2013 New England Patriots look to continue their success in the second half of the season, and end the Super Bowl drought in New England.
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