The Patriots came out of their Week 11-bye with lots of questions, one of them being:
Is This team actually as good as we thought they were?
After a 27-13 win over the Jets this past Sunday, I would answer that question with a ‘yes.’
One of the biggest problems in today’s NFL is keeping all of your weapons healthy and on the field at the same time, much similar to the problems the Patriots have had to endure. Whether it’s been Rob Gronkowski, Sony Michel, Julian Edelman, Rex Burkhead or the revolving door at offensive line, the Patriots have had the injury bug almost all year.
Bill Belichick always preaches that the best football of the season needs to be played after Thanksgiving.
Welp, here we are, folks.
New England is getting healthy at the right time, and the bye week coming late in the season was no doubt was a huge help. But aside from getting rid of the injury bug, the Patriots win over the J-E-T-S answered a lot of questions.
The first question and perhaps the most important one is:
Will the Pats still have a shot at the #1 seed or even a bye?
That would be a yes, and Pittsburgh also did New England a solid by choking in Denver as Big Ben threw one of the worst interceptions of the season in the end zone that sealed the deal for the Broncos and also kept their slim playoff hopes afloat. The Steelers fell to 7-3-1 and with that, it propelled New England back into the fold and intensified the two squad’s week 15 matchup at Heinz Field even more, with still two weeks until it actually happens.
And the next question to be answered?
Would the offense turn things around?
Yes. Brady and company put up 27 points on Sunday. That’s a solid number in today’s pass-first NFL, and when you’re playing the Jets that’s more than enough. There was also some concern surrounding Tom Brady, whose name popped up on the injury report last week and missed his first practice all season with a knee injury, and then an illness which was added to the injury report on Friday. However, despite all that, Brady was back to his old self, rifling 20 completions on 31 pass attempts for 283 yards and 2 touchdowns.
The run game was also working, as Sony Michel got the call 21 times out of the backfield and rushed for a season-high 133 yards and a touchdown, and James White also contributed another 73 yards on top of that for New England’s first 200+ yard rushing game all season.
This brings me to another burning question about this Patriots team:
Is the defense really this bad?
Well, not exactly. Surprisingly, New England actually ranks 11th in scoring defense, allowing 22.6 points per contest. Not bad, but not great either. When it comes time for the playoffs and every team has a star receiver and a competent or even a superstar quarterback, you’ll wish that number was a bit lower. Unfortunately, you don’t get to face Josh McCown every week.
It’ll be a tough assignment this week as well with the Vikings coming into Foxboro, whose record is also better than it indicates. Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs is a lethal combination at the receiver position, and Kirk Cousins is no pushover under center, either.
The real test for the defense though will come in two weeks: on the road, where they’ve struggled mightily, in Pittsburgh. A team that has a good quarterback, a standout running back, and two superstar receivers. If they can pass that test, then you’ll really have a better judgment on just how good this defense truly is.
But for now, it’s onto Minnesota. Should they take care of business at home and improve to 9-3, the rest will take care of itself.
-Brendan Howe is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage Sports Media and covers the New England Patriots. Follow him on Twitter @Brendan__Howe