New England is in the thick of the playoff hunt in a competitive division, and the defense has been a big reason why.
The “Patriot Way” is still a very real thing and always will be so long as Bill Belichick is the head coach. And though it hasn’t been pretty at times, the Patriots are finding ways to compete in a rigorous AFC East — one of two divisions in which all four teams are above .500.
Following a 27-13 victory over the Cardinals on Monday Night Football, the Pats (7-6) took over the final playoff spot with only four games left. They’re a hard team to figure out: QB Mac Jones is still raw, running back Rhamondre Stevenson is a rising star, and most of the offensive pieces they spent major money on are nothing more than good role players.
Thus, in a division with two of the best offenses (Bills, Dolphins), the Patriot Way is winning with defense. This IS the team’s identity, but it’s somewhat unsustainable if the offense can’t find a rhythm.
- They’re 5-4 in games in which they’ve scored 20+ points.
- They’re 2-3 in games in which they’ve scored less than 20 points.
- They’re 7-0 in games they’ve held their opponent to fewer than 20 points.
There’s an oddity, all things considered, since they’ve allocated more money for their offense than the defense.
They’ve spent $90.8 million or 43.2% of the cap on offense— No. 4 in the NFL.
- Hunter Henry: $15 million (28 catches).
- Nelson Agholor: $14.8 million (30 catches).
- Jonnu Smith: $8.4 million (22 catches).
The Patriots spent $159.6 million in guaranteed money on free agents after the start of the 2021 league year on March 17, which set a new record. The pass-catchers mentioned above were arguably the biggest pieces in revamping the offense, but frankly haven’t gotten it done. Others, on either rookie deals or low-end contracts, have.
- Stevenson ($1 million)
- Leads the team in catches, touchdowns, rush yards, and first downs.
- Jakobi Meyers ($3.9 million)
- Leads the team in reception yards, reception touchdowns, and catches for 20+ yards.
- Yards/Game: 319.6 (No. 24)
- Pass Yards/Game: 214.8 (No. 21)
- Rush Yards/Game: 104.8 (No. 23)
- Points/Game: 21.2 (No. 18)
They’ve spent $75.4 million or 35.5% of the cap on defense — No. 9 in the NFL.
- Points allowed/game: 18.4 (No. 5)
- Yards/game: 312.6 (No. 6)
- Sacks: 45 (No. 3)
- Takeaways: 21 (No. 5)
Comprehending the Patriot Way of spending is a bit difficult, considering they’re a bottom-10 offense in the league despite being a top-five spender in this category. The money has paid dividends on the defensive side. They’re simply an incomplete team that’s very well-coached.
Otherwise, they’re just a fringe playoff team that isn’t getting enough production from its second-year QB in Mac Jones. He has two more years on his contract, and he’ll become eligible for an extension after the 2023 season.
The AFC East title is seemingly out of reach, and their current position in the postseason might soon become a thing of the past. They face the Bills, Bengals, Dolphins, and Raiders to close things out, the third-toughest schedule by opponent win percentage (61.5%) in all of football.
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