Bill Belichick is the frontrunner for Coach of the Year and the Pats are rolling at the top of the AFC. As temperatures drop, could the Patriots have their best football ahead?
It’s Week 14 and the 9-4 New England Patriots are sitting at the top of the AFC. After a disappointing 2020, it seems as if order has been restored to the universe.
Bill Belichick and his coaching staff have pulled together a game plan that maximizes his team’s talents. Everyone from Kendrick Bourne to rookie Mac Jones are helping the Pats recover from losing the legends Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, and, of course, the G.O.A.T. Tom Brady.
After a rocky start that included a heartbreaking loss toTB12 and his new squad, the Patriots seem to have found their footing. They’re trending up as they come off a huge win in Orchard Park on Monday night and head into the bye week.
Pats by the Numbers
Record: 9-4 (No. 2 in NFL)
Rushing offense: 123.5 yards/game (No. 11 in NFL)
Passing offense: 223.0 yards/game (No. 19 in NFL)
Total Offense: 346.5 yards/game (No. 18 in NFL)
Scoring offense: 26.9 points/game (No. 8 in NFL)
Rushing defense: 114.5 yards/game (No. 19 in NFL)
Passing defense: 195.5 yards/game (No. 3 in NFL)
Total defense: 310 yards/game (No. 3 in NFL)
Scoring defense: 15.4 points/game (No. 1 in NFL)
Gillette Stadium 2021 Attendance
- The Patriots rank 19th in the NFL in average attendance, bringing in 65,878 fans per home game — approximately 100% of Gillette Stadium’s official capacity.
- The Foxboro faithful show up consistently, as this season’s attendance is nearly exactly the same as 2019, the most recent non-pandemic season. That year, the Patriots were also 19th in attendance, with Gillette averaging 65,753 fans a game.
- The Patriots have drawn 461,146 total fans in their seven home games so far, which is 19th overall but third among teams with seven home games to date.
Patriots Payroll ROI
The Patriots’ four highest-paid players by total 2021 cash are all offseason pickups:
LB Matt Judon $19,823,529
TE Jonnu Smith $16,882,345
TE Hunter Henry $16,823,529
WR Nelson Agholor $11,941,176
Despite boasting the second-highest valuation in the league at $5 billion, New England is notorious for being stingy with major contracts. Reportedly, one of the reasons that Tom Brady fled for Tampa Bay was the front office’s unwillingness to pay big money to strengthen his receiving corps, especially due to the hometown discount he took on his own salary.
After missing the playoffs last year for the first time since 2008, the Patriots shelled out uncharacteristic cash in the offseason, hoping to reinvigorate the franchise. And it’s worked….sort of.
Matt Judon has been a dynamite pick-up for the Pats. The linebacker is the heart of one of the best defenses in the league, and his red sleeves haunt the nightmares of QBs everywhere. This is good news since Judon is one of the top-paid LBs in the NFL.
The Pats also bet big on receivers. They brought in the trio of Smith, Henry, and Agholor in hopes of enhancing options with veteran talent. It is safe to say that Smith and Agholor’s performances have been a bit underwhelming, as they’ve combined for less than 1,000 receiving yards and four touchdowns to date. Henry, on the other hand, has been a valuable asset, notching 394 yards on 35 catches and seven TDs. While he’s not quite Gronk, he’s made some plays — both as a blocker and receiver — that remind fans of their beloved former tight end.
The heart of the Patriots team, however, lies among their vets, including Devin McCourty, Matthew Slater, and Dont’a Hightower. Although they don’t net the biggest checks on the team, they provide unquantifiable value and leadership that is essential to their success.
While the Patriots have taken over first place in the AFC, their fantasy numbers outside of their top-rated defense leave a lot to be desired.
Jones has a bright future, but Josh McDaniels’ game plan ensures that the rookie QB doesn’t flame out too early. Jones is the 18th-best QB in terms of fantasy performance in the league, and analysts have cited conservative play-calling for the young star as a reason why — much to the frustration of fantasy owners. Nowhere was that more obvious than the wintery matchup against Buffalo in which Jones recorded a measly three attempts.
However, the Patriots have perennially been known for their full-team play, and their underwhelming fantasy numbers of individual position players reflect that. Hunter Henry is the top-ranked Patriots player at No. 12 among tight ends.
Fortunately for Pats fans, facts are better than fantasy. As the weather gets colder in Foxborough, it’s difficult not to get excited for the possibilities that lie with a triumphant return to the postseason.