By Tony Massarotti, 98.5 The Sports Hub
An old biology teacher once told me: trust your first instinct. But because, as former Red Sox pitcher Derek Lowe once said of himself, I’m a mental gidget – and stubborn – I needlessly lapse into overthinking.
Why am I bringing this up?
Because with the 2019 Patriots, upon looking at their goose-down schedule, my first instinct was that they’d be 8-0 entering a Nov. 3 game at Baltimore.
Well here we are, seven weeks into the 2019 NFL season, and the Patriots are 7-0 - and this isn't about the schedule anymore. The Cleveland Browns are the next victims, who are scheduled to face the Patriots at Gillette Stadium late Sunday afternoon in what may very well the greatest coaching mismatch in NFL history, Bill Belichick vs. Freddie Kitchens, the modern-day sports equivalent of Godzilla Meets Bambi. Once that happens, we can earnestly begin talk of another undefeated Patriots season because what the Patriots are doing right now is making a mockery of the entire NFL.
Before anyone gets the wrong idea, let’s make this clear: this isn’t about the inferior competition anymore. In the words of a great philosopher, it is what it is. The Jets last week played well and defeated the Dallas Cowboys, whom many regarded (and still do) as a legitimate Super Bowl contender this season. The Patriots then so thoroughly dismembered the Jets that New York looked like a high school football team (from 1985) and we were left to actually wonder – for an instant – whether this NFL season is worth playing at all.
Today, these are the facts:
- The Patriots rank first in the NFL in scoring offense with an average of 31.9 points per game.
- The Patriots rank first in the NFL in scoring defense with an average of 6.9 points per game.
- The Patriots rank first in NFL scoring differential at +175, a whopping 83 points better than the second-place team, the San Francisco 49ers, who are +92.
- The Patriots rank first in the NFL on third-down defense, allowing a paltry 14 percent of conversions.
- The Patriots rank first in the NFL in turnover differential at +14, double that of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who rank second at +7.
- The Patriots rank first in the NFL in defensive passer rating at 35.6.
- The Patriots rank first in the NFL in interceptions with 18, double that of the next team, the Carolina Panthers, who have nine.
We could go on, but you obviously get the idea.
Now look, we all know about the building pressure of an undefeated season because we’ve lived it before and it didn’t turn out so well. And we all knew that, coming in, the iron of the New England schedule would come in Games 9-13, when New England plays, in order, at Baltimore, at Philadelphia, home vs. Dallas, at Houston, home vs. Kansas City. And yet, halfway through this season, many of those teams look far more flawed than we might have guessed at the beginning of the season, with the possible exception of the Ravens, whose offensive passing game remains in doubt.
The point: the schedule might be even worse than we originally believed.
And the Patriots – especially on defense – might be even better.