The New England Patriots were expected to start this year where they left off last year and return to the Super Bowl. Things haven’t gone well for the defending AFC champions who sit 3-3 and tied with the other three AFC East teams. The good news for the Patriots is that the same year they’ve struggled is the same year the entire AFC has begun to struggle.
Over the past decade the AFC has been the dominant conference in the NFL. Despite New England losing two Super Bowls to the New York Giants, the Patriots and Indianapolis Colts have been the two best teams in the league for most of the past ten years. In recent years other AFC teams have improved to help their conference be on top. However, this year the NFC has overtaken the AFC and it’s come at the right time for the Patriots.
The Patriots dominance in the early part of the past decade came when the AFC was the dominant conference. The Patriots had Tom Brady and the Colts had Peyton Manning making the two the toughest offenses in the league. While those two teams didn’t win every Super Bowl, no NFC team could match their skill.
But things are changing this season in the AFC. Without Manning, the Colts are in the second year of a rebuilding process. The Houston Texans were undefeated going into week six but were blown out by the Green Bay Packers who are in the middle of the pack in the NFC. The Denver Broncos were supposed to have improved from their surprising season last year with the addition of Manning but sit at 2-3. And the Patriots biggest competition, the Baltimore Ravens, may have just seen their season end with a season ending injury to linebacker Ray Lewis.
Because of the struggles throughout the AFC, the Patriots are in a prime position to repeat as AFC champions. The Patriots defense is horrific and while the offense is the best in the league, they’ve had several injury issues so far this year. But even with the Patriots underachieving at 3-3, there are no other teams in the conference that are playing significantly better.
Over the past ten years the Patriots have been the best team in NFL. This year the team is struggling, as they sit tied with the other three AFC East teams after six games. Lucky for them, the rest of the AFC isn’t playing much better. Despite their recent performances and with ten games remaining the Patriots are still one of the best teams in the AFC. This year’s turn in conference strength came at the right time for this team.