The offseason woes of the New England Patriots have been well documented and highly publicized. There was the disconnect with Wes Welker, the arrest of Aaron Hernandez and the ongoing injury drama of Rob Gronkowski, yet the popular consensus has been that the Patriots would be alright; after all, they still have Tom Brady throwing the ball.
The question has now become, can Brady be enough to maintain New England’s status as an NFL elite?
Two weeks into the season, the Patriots are sitting atop the AFC East at 2-0, but the wins have been as much about their opponents’ mistakes as it has been about their success. If ever a team could win two games and still be seen as falling off, this is it.
First, the Pats have faced two divisional opponents that were expected to be among the worst teams in the league. Both teams started a rookie quarterback that did not receive a full complement of preseason snaps. Both teams have questionable offensive lines and inconsistent talent at the wide receiver position. Both teams should have been easy wins for the Patriots.
Instead, both teams pushed the Patriots to the very end of the game and New England was lucky to come away with the win.
This is not the team we have seen take up residence in the AFC Championship Game and make going to the Super Bowl look easy. It is not the team we have seen set offensive records and complete near perfect seasons with ease.
Instead, Brady cannot count on a receiver to catch a pass, and the receivers cannot count on Brady to keep his cool. The running game that was so productive last season is now in shambles, and injuries are keeping what talent the team does have from seeing the field. The receiving game is in the hands of Julian Edelman and two rookies the casual fan has never even heard of. Brady’s completion percentage has taken a dive, and it has been the defense that has pulled them from the jaws of defeat, instead of the offense making up for a shaky D.
This is definitely not the Patriots we are used to seeing.
The two wins make the Patriots’ struggles easier to fathom, but if you watch Brady during his post game interviews without knowing the scores, you would swear his team had lost.
While the Patriots have barely been able to beat two of the weaker teams in the league, the Denver Broncos and San Francisco 49ers have looked like they are in mid-season form, both sending potential Super Bowl contenders away with a loss. Compare these games to what we have seen from New England and it easy to see that the Patriots are no longer on the same level as the NFL elite. If Brady and his young receivers can get on the same page and make it click, maybe they can return to AFC dominance, but no one is going to recommend that fans hold their breath.
It appears as though the impossible has finally happened. Tom Brady is no longer super human, and the Patriots are no longer the AFC favorite. How they will respond will be interesting to see.