Panic or Poise: Is it Reasonable to Worry About a 9-1 Patriots Team?

In many ways, it seems ridiculous to be worrying about a 9-1 football team that is defending a Super Bowl championship. But as the Patriots head into Week 12, there seems to be an overall feeling of concern.  

Now, obviously, it is important to remember that the media also plays a major role in this feeling. For years now, several members of the media have jumped at any opportunity to speak of the Patriots demise, to the point where it seems to be a question that is circulated every year. For most teams, 9-1 is phenomenal and would be their best start in years.  For the Patriots, 9-1 is casual and in many ways expected. This season is no different as the Patriots and Tom Brady are being questioned on their legitimacy despite their record being tied for best in the league.

The Patriots have been questioned for many things with one of the biggest being strength of schedule. They have also been questioned for their lack of running game, offensive line, and even their quarterback play. Some of the questions have legitimate backing to them, but it is important to ask: Is it necessary to panic?

For the sake of comparison, let’s take a look at last year’s Patriots team through Week 11 who ended up winning Super Bowl LIII. They sputtered much worse than this year’s team. Last season the Patriots lost their first two road games of the season to the Jaguars and Lions.  The offense struggled mightily in both matchups, and the defense was not strong enough to bail them out. In Week 10 the Patriots put up another road stinker getting blown out by the Titans on the road, mustering only 10 points and getting dominated on defense. 

The questions then were the exact same as they are now: Can Brady win outside of Foxborough? Does this offense have enough fire power to compete for a title? Is this the end for Brady?

The one major difference that needs to be noted is that the Patriots have found ways to win games this year, despite lackluster offensive performances.  Yes, maybe Tom is upset and jealous that the Patriots are a defensive team, but for Patriots fans this should feel like your saving grace: If Brady and the offense struggle, this defense can and will give you a chance to win the game. 

The Patriots one loss obviously came at the hands of the Ravens who feel like the Patriots fiercest competition in the AFC. This was an uncharacteristic game for the Patriots in terms of turnovers and penalties, and most likely will not happen again.  Unfortunately, after a long Bye Week coming off the loss, the Patriots did little to ease the nerves of the fanbase or silence the doubters. 

The offense flat out stunk, as Tom Brady set a new career high for incompletions in a half, and the Patriots could not execute anything in the Red Zone besides a double-pass play touchdown thrown by Julian Edelman. The Eagles front was all up in Brady’s business and made it a miserable Sunday for the Quarterback.  This was a prime example of a game where fans could wonder what would have happened if the defense wasn’t playing so well.

Fortunately for the Patriots, the defense is playing exceptionally well and there is no reason to believe that they will not continue to do so. The Patriots offense will obviously have to be better than it has been, that much is for sure, but this is not the first time we’ve seen the Patriots have mid-season struggles on offense. Many times, we have seen the Patriots re-invent themselves over the stretch run of the regular season and be a new team offensively by the time playoffs comes around. For Patriots fans that has to be the hope.

Isaiah Wynn’s return should help to protect Tom Brady better, and the continued improvement in the system of N’Keal Harry and Mohamed Sanu should also help the unit.  At the end of the day, this offense is still led by Tom Brady, Julian Edelman and Josh McDaniels. These guys have tons of experience winning at the highest level, and have to be trusted to make the necessary adjustments. It is better to see your flaws and make adjustments now, than to try solving the problem come January.

In conclusion, the message to Patriots fans is this: let Nick Wright, Rob Parker and Kellerman say whatever they want about the Patriots demise.  They’ve been saying these things since 2014 and the Patriots have three rings in four Super Bowl appearances since.  The Patriots thrive on being doubted, and they showed that last year they do in fact hear the noise. The offense will most likely be better, and the defense will still carry this team. The Patriots are a 9-1 team, are still favored to win the Super Bowl in Vegas, and still haven’t played their best football yet. There is plenty to be optimistic about

 (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

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