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Pssst, you didn’t hear it from me, but the Patriots are overrated

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NFL: New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Bill Belichick has done a lot of praising of the Seattle Seahawks this week. So please, Bill, forgive me. Boston, please forgive me. Seahawks fans who think I’m about to “jinx” the team or I’m being an ass, forgive me and come to terms with the fact that jinxes don’t exist. And everybody: Read the article before commenting.

You won’t find a reputable power rankings (oxymoron) that doesn’t have the New England Patriots ranked number one. It’s not often that a team so obviously belongs in the number one position, but the Patriots really don’t have much competition to speak of. In the AFC, there’s literally nobody worthy of challenging New England; the Oakland Raiders (is this real life?) have no defense (yes, it is); the Denver Broncos have no offense; the AFC North and AFC South have no contenders; the Kansas Chiefs are interesting and getting Justin Houston back, but carry more faults than most admit. In the NFC, competition is also somewhat sparse; the 7-1 Dallas Cowboys have faced a pretty weak schedule, have inexperience at key positions; the Atlanta Falcons have a bad defense; Seattle has an atrocious run game and a tired defense.

As you can already see, I’m not even saying that the Patriots aren’t the best team in the NFL — they probably are. But this is not the 2007 New England team. This is not the 2010 team that went 14-2. This might be more like the 2011 team that went to the Super Bowl but was 30th in defensive DVOA and had considerable faults leading to their 21-17 upset loss to the New York Giants. Meaning that the Patriots very well should be the favorites to win the Super Bowl.

But they’re still overrated.

Eight weeks into the season, New England has yet to throw an interception. That’s unfuckingbelievable. I repeat: That is unfuckingbelievable. Emphasis on the idea that I can’t believe they’ve yet to throw a pick despite the fact that Tom Brady missed four games. That has to regress back to an expected interception count at some point, even if Brady is one of the best quarterbacks of all-time; he has to throw some interceptions at some point. The Pats are the third team in history to go eight games without an interception, joining the 1960 Cleveland Browns and the 2008 Washington Redskins??? Yes, in 2008, Jason Campbell threw eight touchdowns and no interceptions over the first eight games as the Redskins went 6-2. He threw six interceptions over the next five games, Washington missed the postseason.

There is no comparison between Campbell and Brady — literally none -- but it’s an example that Campbell played the best he possibly could, then he played like Campbell. Brady has gone four games without a pick, totally normal for Brady, but at some point you’d expect his 133.9 passer rating will come down. Maybe not this week, maybe he’ll throw eight touchdowns vs Seattle, who knows, but over the next eight games, I’ll be surprised if Brady doesn’t have a passer rating closer to like, 110, which is still annoyingly great. But not this super power team you’ve witnessed lately.

Yeah, that’s right, New England has been amazing recently with wins by the score of 33-13, 35-17, 27-16, and 41-25.

That first score came against the Browns, so, let’s skip it.

The next one was vs the Cincinnati Bengals in Foxborough, and the Bengals hung in for awhile, even leading 14-10 in the third quarter, but lost it on a quick series of events: Andy Dalton completed a 15-yard pass to AJ Green but it was negated for holding, pinning them at their own 8. Somehow Dalton was sacked for a loss of eight, giving the Patriots a safety. Then Brady bullied Cincy’s defense with the tight ends, quickly completing four passes total to Martellus Bennett and Rob Gronkowski, gaining 69 yards and a touchdown to Gronk — Immediately it was 19-14. Two minutes later, the Pats scored on a Brady pass to James White. It was 25-14 after a missed PAT. New England scored 15 points in four minutes of game time. The Bengals are an average team that got beat on the road with penalties and a quick series of events that turned the game around in a heartbeat.

The next one was the Steelers in Pittsburgh, but they were starting Landry Jones and the game was close in the fourth quarter and the Steelers have a lot more problems than just quarterback, whether Ben Roethlisberger is out or not.

And the most recent one was the Buffalo Bills, a team that Seattle just played of course, and didn’t do as good of a job against. But also still a 4-5 team.

So I would say that in Brady’s four games, he’s done everything asked of him and more. But as far as if he’s been tested since returning, no, he hasn’t. The Seahawks will be his first real test. They’re sixth against the pass by DVOA. The Browns are 32nd. The Bengals are 24th. The Steelers are 18th. The Bills are 22nd.

Will Seattle be able to cover the Patriots’ tight ends? That’s a scary thought. The Seahawks are 23rd against tight ends this year, per DVOA, and 25th against number two receivers. They might have trouble covering Gronk, Bennett, and Chris Hogan. However, this article isn’t about what Seattle is bad at, this is about what New England is good at and if they’re a “really great” NFL team; I expect them to win at home vs a Seattle team coming off of six days rest and three very long games for the defense. I might also expect them to win on a neutral field with both teams having two full weeks rest.

And still I don’t want people to think the Patriots aren’t beatable. They’re very beatable. They have plenty of faults. And they even might not be the best team in the NFL.

  • LeGarrette Blount is good at what he does but has the versatility of a key ring. Not even a keychain, but just the ring that holds keys and keychains. He runs the ball towards the end zone, gains 3.8 YPC, and scores touchdowns (nine this season already). He won’t catch the ball and his runs will rarely dazzle you. The Pats are 26th in yards per carry.
  • Over the last couple of years, Brady tends to have games where he gets sacked a lot. In 15 of his last 22 games, he’s been sacked multiple times. In nine of those games he’s been sacked at least three times. That didn’t used to happen and I’m sure an injured and aging offensive line has plenty to do with that. In fact, over his last eight games last season, including playoffs, Brady was sacked 20 times, and New England went 3-5. People have not spoken much about the Pats demise after a 10-0 start last season but it happened and a similar fall backwards could happen again.
  • They are 18th in defensive DVOA and 25th against the pass in DVOA. People have pointed to the fact that they look unstoppable since Brady returned but Brady has nothing to do with a pass defense that has taken some hits against an assortment of not-great QBs. Over the last couple of years they’ve rid themselves of Darrelle Revis, Chandler Jones, Jamie Collins, Dominique Easley, and Vince Wilfork. And while some of those moves may help Belichick create the locker room he wants, it has certainly made the defense suffer a little bit in the interim.
  • They are fifth in DVOA. FIFTH. They aren’t second. They aren’t third. They aren’t fourth. They’re fifth. True, there’s going to be some question about the rankings because the 4-4 Philadelphia Eagles are first in DVOA, but you have to at least wonder why DVOA doesn’t like New England and is to have more to do with just the absence of Brady for four games because Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett played pretty well in his absence. A really, really great team would be balanced, would have a top-10 defense, and wouldn’t be fifth in DVOA. I’m sure they’ll move up as the season goes on, but they aren’t even that close yet.

Overall, I think what New England has is the best quarterback in the NFL, but one probably due to make some mistakes against better defenses than the teams he’s seen so far. They have perhaps the best head coach in NFL history and a great game plan every week. Maybe the best receiving threat in the league with Gronkowski. A tough running back. A myriad of other options for Brady at tight end and receiver, though none of the others are transcendent in any way. A few very good players on defense, but I’m not even sure I’d classify any of them as current “Pro Bowl” types; Rob Ninkovich has zero sacks in four games; Jabaal Sheard leads the team with 3.5 sacks; Malcolm Butler and Devin McCourty are pretty good but I might cap it there; Dont’a Hightower is solid.

To bring it back to their last “awesome” team, those 2010 Patriots had Brady, Gronk, Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez, Danny Woodhead, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Deion Branch, (they also had Julian Edelman and Randy Moss but barely), McCourty, Wilfork, Jerod Mayo was an All-Pro, Ninkovich, Brandon Meriweather, and Brandon Spikes. I think this team certainly has elements, like Brady, Gronk, and Bennett, but overall much less starpower than six years ago. If you look at their schedule, a 14-2 record is very feasible for New England.

I just don’t think they’re as “good” as the 14-2 team we from 2010, and definitely very beatable. Even if it’s not this weekend.