While the New England Patriots have resumed their winning ways, glory doesn’t necessarily await them.
ESPN’s Dan Graziano on Monday argued the Patriots’ Week 15 win over the Cincinnati Bengals doesn’t indicate things now are “fine” in New England. After noting how the Patriots’ defense continued to shine and their offensive showed new signs of life in the 34-13 win, Graziano concluded it’s an “overreaction” to say New England is going to be “fine” — i.e. likely to return to the Super Bowl — in final weeks of the regular season and playoffs.
“Brady doesn’t look sharp,” Graziano wrote. “Julian Edelman doesn’t look healthy. The offensive line isn’t holding up, and receivers aren’t getting open quickly enough for Brady to beat the pressure with his customary rapid release.
“These things are somewhat easy to hide when you’re playing a 1-13 team. But as the Patriots showed in their games against Baltimore, Houston and Kansas City — the teams they’ll need to beat if they want to get back to the Super Bowl for the fourth year in a row — they’re tougher to hide against the tougher competition.
“The scoreboard made this look like a get-right game for the Patriots, but if you watched it, you saw a lot of the things that have been making you worry whether this passing game can get things together in time for January. Saturday against Buffalo offers another tough test from a tough, hungry defense. Check back Saturday night.”
The Patriots will have the chance to prove Graziano wrong Saturday when they host the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots can clinch the AFC East title and maintain their lead over the Kansas City Chiefs in the race for the AFC’s No. 2 seed and the accompanying first-round bye.
Patriots players and most New England observers won’t need Graziano to remind them the 10-4 Bills will pose a much stiffer challenge than the Bengals did. That’s why New England’s win over Cincinnati simultaneously masked and re-exposed the team’s well-known flaws, instead of representing the “get-right” game the Patriots will need in order to ease some anxiety in the region.
Thumbnail photo via David Kohl/USA TODAY Sports Images