New England Patriots fans have had a tumultuous time picking which direction their north-eastern super team is heading. Despite their yearly ability to take the AFC North, this is not a team that keeps that as a measure of success. For Tom Brady and company, super bowls are expected no matter the injuries, road blocks or other circumstances. This season, with that goal in mind, a lot of Patriots fans are still waiting for consistent evidence to bring them super bowl hope, and that might be finally be beginning to mount to a head this Sunday.
With the NFL season almost half done, the New England Patriots have run the gamut of what a single-season team can possibly experience. Their offense struggled mightily early in the year, the Miami Dolphins taking full advantage in week one of a jumbled offensive line and weak receiving core to take Brady out of his comfort zone with four sacks and two fumbles of the Pats quarterback. Even in their subsequent wins against the Oakland Raiders and Minnesota Vikings, this Patriots offense relied on defensive stops and scores more so than the their own acumen.
What came next on their season timeline is this New England Patriots team hitting the low point so far against the Kansas City Chiefs. This Andy Reid team plastered Tom Brady on defense and put up plenty of points to spare on offense through Alex Smith and Jamaal Charles. Smith went 20-for-26 with three touchdowns compared to Brady’s under-200 yards passing, three turnovers and eventual benching. This left plenty of experts all the fuel needed to offer their answers for the New England Patriots with many calling out the management and other players for not being more help to Brady, leading to this kind of struggle.
On a short week, and upset by the Monday Night Football blowout, the Cincinnati Bengals came to Foxboro and gave the New England Patriots almost nothing in the way of a challenge. That game alone seemed to turn around the entire season on the shoulder of Brady’s 292-yard performance with two touchdowns, but another player’s progression also served as a ray of hope for fans. Rob Gronkowski went for 100 yards in that game with a touchdown, marking his full return for injury for the first time in almost two full seasons. However, the New York Jets, who have been floundering this season, pushed the Pats to the limit with a last-second field goal block, and bit of controversy, barely ending their ambition.
While the New England Patriots are fresh off a drumming of the Chicago Bears, some fans do not seem ready to stand completely behind their team as of this point in the season. Peyton Manning, bringing in his Denver Broncos this weekend, will have to stand against this Pats defense that is without linebacker Jerod Mayo, defensive end Chandler Jones and possibly a few other pieces of this Bill Belichick scheme. Brady, on the other hand, seems to still be feeling out his receivers a bit, making this a potential shootout of a game. New England Patriots fans, no matter which way this game falls, should have a more clear vision of their team’s potential for the remainder of this season, and may just see the final roadblock removed from their quest for another super bowl appearance.
Commentary by Myles Gann