The New England Patriots’ shaky finish to the regular season has even their most vocal supporters wondering whether another Super Bowl title is realistic. The deck is stacked against the Pats.
Former Patriots safety Rodney Harrison, who currently works as an NFL analyst for NBC Sports, expressed skepticism Tuesday on WEEI’s “Ordway, Merloni and Fauria” while discussing New England’s status going into the playoffs. The Patriots still have quarterback Tom Brady, head coach Bill Belichick and a first-round bye, but the team’s offense simply isn’t as overpowering as it was earlier this season.
“They just don’t have the weapons,” Harrison said. “You’re not afraid of (wide receiver) Brandon LaFell. You’’re not afraid of those other guys, because they’re not (wide receiver Julian Edelman). Edelman, to me, is one of the top two or three slot receivers in this league.
“When you line up against this offense, you see all these different combinations on the offensive line, you’re not afraid. You see Tom back there struggling. At times, he looks like an average quarterback. You saw how they played against the Jets, you saw how they played against the Eagles, you saw how they played against the Dolphins. You can’t go in with the same mindset that this is the same Patriots team.”
The Patriots started with a 10-0 record before losing four of their final six games, including Sunday’s season finale against the Miami Dolphins. The Pats will need to play better if they plan to repeat as Super Bowl champions, which is easier said than done, especially with Brady battling a sprained ankle he suffered in New England’s Week 17 loss at Sun Life Stadium.
“My concern is Tom with the high ankle sprain,” Harrison said. “I know he’s a warrior. I know how tough he is. I know he’ll try to shoot it up so he can play. But it’s still a tough injury to have.
“Tom’s not a very mobile guy. High ankle sprain, it’s difficult. I played with a high ankle sprain, it’s a pain in the butt. Even after I retired, I still have some issues with it right now.”
It’s hard to imagine anyone is counting out the Patriots, who have been to six Super Bowls, winning four, over the last 14 seasons. They’re still an elite team capable of stringing together three consecutive victories against the NFL’s best.
But it’s important to keep in mind the Patriots are in a different place now than they were in February, when they defeated the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX, or in November, when they looked primed to run the table en route to another championship.
New England, believe it or not, has flaws that could be insurmountable.
Thumbnail photo via Andrew Innerarity/USA TODAY Sports Images
Thumbnail photo via New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady