November 2019 Check-In: New England Patriots
FOXBOROUGH – As the New England Patriots have no more games remaining in October, it is time for the November check-in as we are officially at the halfway point of the 2019 NFL season.
Where They Stand: The Patriots are one of two teams to remain undefeated in the league, along with the San Francisco 49ers. Potential ramifications of a Tom Brady v. Jimmy Garoppolo showdown aside, I want to give two pats on the back to myself for predicting that the Patriots would be 8-0 by the end of October. They have a two and a half game lead in the AFC East and are the runaway favorites for the number one seed in the Eastern Conference.
Where They Were Last Month: The Patriots had the same amount of losses one month ago today. If anything, they've looked even more dominant throughout October, as compared to September. What's more, it has looked easy for the Patriots to achieve that, as the defense has steamrolled competitions and the offense manages to click despite being severely depleted.
Who's Hurt?: The current injury chart for the Patriots includes tight ends Ryan Izzo and Matt LaCosse, as well as guard Shaq Mason. Unfortunately, an injury to Josh Gordon served as the catalyst for the team to finally prepare to part ways with him, per reports. On the other hand, rookie wide receiver N'Keal Harry is close to returning to the club and could provide a needed boost on offense.
Biggest Strength: The defense. It's the defense and that's not even really up for debate. This Patriots defense has been historically good. In fact, some have claimed it as the greatest defense in history. Granted, there are still eight games left to go and the schedule gets tougher from here, but let's bask in the glory of the Pats defense up to this point. For example, as pointed out by The Ringer's Bill Simmons, no defense has ever scored more than 200 points in fantasy football in a season. New England is already at 174. Additionally, the defense has only allowed four touchdowns to opposing offenses through eight games, which is the same number as the amount of defensive touchdowns they have scored. So far, they've allowed just 5.4 points per game, which is an NFL record. Numerous other milestones, including yardage allowed and completions allowed have set records for being the most in the first half of a season since teams from the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. So, yes. Thank you for this defense, Bill Belichick.
Biggest Weakness: I thought about saying the receiving corps for this category, but I think that is about to be immediately remedied by New England. Instead, I have to mention the kicking situation. With Stephen Gostkowski out for the year, New England has been lacking in consistency and trust with their special teams unit. Kicker Mike Nugent was just waived by the team and the current report is that Nick Folk is the next man up for the Patriots. We'll see if they can rely on him.
Where to Next: It gets a lot tougher from here. The schedule does not get easy again until a week fifteen matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals so the true test of this Patriots team's legitimacy as a contender begins now. As for November specifically, New England faces the Baltimore Ravens this weekend before heading into their bye week. Then, November will wrap up with games against the Philadelphia Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys. November will be tough for New England, but if the defense keeps this up, there is no reason they cannot be 11-0 when I check back in during December.
Image via Wikimedia Commons / Thalan