The Patriots currently stand atop the AFC with a 12-2 record with 2 weeks left in a 2016 season, that flew right by. So fast, that Tom Brady’s suspension seems like a distant memory. The past two weeks showed the Patriots passing strong tests against the Ravens and Broncos. Both all too familiar squads.
The defense was the most notable, despite the Jamie Collins trade, shutting down the offenses of both opponents. While they did surrender 14 points worth of touchdowns and extra points to the Ravens, the defense only allowed 9 points off drives that didn’t begin off of turnovers. The Patriots then held the Broncos to 3 points in Denver. The defense has showcased sparks from Trey Flowers and Malcolm Brown.
The offense has stayed consistent, the Broncos are a top defense. The offensive line has rebounded from 2015 greatly. The running back core is as good as any the Patriots have seen during the Brady/Belichick era with Blount, Lewis and White. The receiving core of Edelman, Hogan and rookie breakout Mitchell, with the addition of Michael Floyd will be lethal. Martellus Bennett, while a TE2 to Gronk, is a TE1 on any other team.
That all said. The Patriots could very well lock up the AFC, if they can close out securing home field, which we all expect them to do. A path through Foxborough’s Gillette Stadium is a brutal place to play in January. However, teams like the 2009 and 2012 Ravens and 2010 Jets say otherwise. That’s the biggest question for the Patriots, can they prevent that Raiders, Steelers, Ravens, Chiefs, etc. team from coming out to New England and shocking them? That’s the only question.
The final question is the potential Super Bowl LI opponent pending an AFC Championship victory. The Patriots haven’t played any of the top dogs in the NFC this season, so a lot of the potential match-ups would go without any season previewing. The exception is the Seahawks, who they lost to. Down went Gronk for the Patriots and a week later down went Earl Thomas III for the Seahawks. So that dynamic has shifted.
The likely NFC Super Bowl contenders, besides the Seahawks are the Cowboys, Falcons, Packers, Lions and the Giants. The Patriots should be able to beat any of those teams, but it’s only a matter of… do they?
The NFL season continues and the postseason will be upon us soon!