The New England Patriots looked unstoppable through the first 11 weeks of the regular season, posting a 10-0 record and sparking debate over whether they’d run the table en route to a Super Bowl win.
Now, the Patriots appear vulnerable.
Former Pats safety Rodney Harrison, who currently works as an NFL analyst for NBC Sports, doesn’t see the same mystique New England had earlier this season. The Patriots have lost four of their last six games, including Sunday’s season finale against the Miami Dolphins, and no longer have the luxury of entering the playoffs with the AFC’s No. 1 seed, which once seemed like a forgone conclusion.
“Teams are no longer afraid to play the Patriots,” Harrison said Sunday on NBC Sports’ “Football Night in America.”
The Patriots have suffered losses to the Denver Broncos, Philadelphia Eagles, New York Jets and Dolphins since Nov. 29. They still have a first-round bye after finishing with a 12-4 record and winning the AFC East for the seventh consecutive season, but injuries and inconsistent offensive line play have been problematic for quarterback Tom Brady and Co.
“I’m very worried about the Patriots,” Harrison said. “They need (wide receiver) Julian Edelman back. I’ve said this before, I think he’s more important than (tight end) Rob Gronkowski to that offense.”
Harrison’s colleague, Tony Dungy, agreed New England is in some trouble.
“I’m concerned. And not only am I concerned, their coach is concerned,” Dungy said Sunday night. “They only threw five passes in the first half (against Miami). He’s worried about protecting Tom Brady.”
The Patriots’ attempt to repeat as Super Bowl champions has never looked more difficult.
Thumbnail photo via Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports Images
Thumbnail photo via New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick