Let’s get the obvious facts out of the way, the Patriots schedule up until this point has been incredibly easy, no doubt about it they have had the easiest schedule in the NFL. Aren’t the Super Bowl champs supposed to have a harder schedule in order to balance things out? I guess that is beside the point but when you start off with Steelers (2-4), Dolphins (0-6), Jets (1-5), Bills (5-1), Redskins (1-6), Giants (2-5), and Jets (1-5) is there any question a franchise like the Patriots will dominate? No, and again that is not their fault and the schedule does toughen up over the final half of the season but wow is that a cakewalk. So I mention that because that defense has been historically good so far, and while yes they are probably the most talented defense the Patriots have had in a while how good are they really? Can we put them in the class of the Seahawks, Ravens, or Buccaneers of the past 15 years? Not on my watch. Maybe from a purely stats perspective you can but from an eye test to go along with that schedule they have A LOT to prove before we can start talking about them as “great” or even the best in the league this year.
Now let’s look at the stats from a league standing perspective powered by Pro Football Reference. The Patriots D is First in Points For, Second in Yards, First in Yards per Play, First in Takeaways, Second in First Downs, Third in Completed Passes, Second in Passing Yards Allowed, First in Passing Touchdowns, First in Interceptions, Third in Rushing Touchdowns, First in Rushing First Downs, Third in Rushing Yards Gained, Fourth in Penalties, and by double the amount of the second place squad they are first in Expected points contributed by Defense. Basically except for Rushing Yards per attempt they are top 3 in every single category and even that you have to take that with a grain a salt seeing as no team is ever winning a game against the Pats so all of those carry yards can be contributed in large part to draw plays on third and longs and plays when the game is out of hand. It’s impressive that’s for sure. For all of you fantasy football lovers out there (that includes me by the way) in my league which is a pretty standard non-PPR league the Patriots defense is top 5 overall in points and has double digit more points than MVP front runner Christian McCaffrey. That may speak more to the league rules valuing defense a little too much but that is a story for another day and still shows the dominance the Pats D has shown this year, especially when it comes to turnovers and defensive touchdowns.
The evolution of this defense has just been classic Patriots. They steal Van Noy from the Lions, they resign Jamie Collins at a discount, they take a really good corner in Stephon Gilmore and make him one of the best in the entire league, they plug the defensive line with cheap productive alternatives to replace Trey Flowers, and they either draft or sign unheralded guys that turn out to be high level starters such as J.C. Jackson. It’s the type of roster creation and management that make them better than everyone else year in and year out.
Again I will not stress this enough that schedule has been a complete joke but dominance is dominance and there is no arguing that and to their credit they beat the Steelers when Big Ben was healthy and they handled a really good Bills team on the road although the calling card of the Bills is also their defense. How will we know if this defense is really that good? I think we should revisit this article in mid-December after they play the Browns, @Baltimore, @Philly, the Cowboys, @Houston, and then home against the Chiefs presumably with Mahomes back in the lineup. Then and only then will I concede that this defense can be thrust into the conversation of some of the best in recent memory. I wonder if they will have clinched the division by then, ha.