The New England Patriots currently are on the outside looking in when it comes to the AFC playoff picture, posting a 2-3 record thus far in their first season of the post-Tom Brady era.
So, are the Patriots really in jeopardy of missing the postseason for the first time since 2008, when they still went 11-5 with Matt Cassel at the helm following Brady’s season-ending ACL tear in Week 1?
NFL analyst Dan Graziano explained in a column published Monday on ESPN.com that jumping to that conclusion would be an “overreaction.”
Here’s Graziano’s reasoning:
I might go down with this ship, but I’m not going to believe a Bill Belichick team is going to miss the playoffs until I see it happen. Five of the Patriots’ remaining 11 games are against teams that have losing records, including two against the Jets.
This new offense, built around the run with the quarterback as one of the most dangerous running threats, can still work the way it did earlier in the season. The Patriots haven’t had a lot of practice time together these last couple of weeks, which is part of what led Belichick to say postgame, “Hopefully we’ll be able to practice this week. We certainly need it.”
The AFC field looks brutal, but it’s still too soon to write off this team.
The Patriots are marred in a two-game losing streak — they also dropped their Week 4 matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs — but one could argue COVID-19 has been New England’s toughest opponent to date. Cam Newton and Stephon Gilmore are among those who’ve battled the coronavirus, which has thrown a serious wrench into the Patriots’ schedule of late, limiting their ability to practice consistently.
The Patriots currently sit in third place in the AFC East, trailing the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins. They’ve really struggled offensively, with Newton taking a major step back over his last two games after back-to-back strong showings to begin his New England tenure.
Perhaps Bill Belichick’s squad will get back on track this Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers, quarterbacked by former Patriots signal-caller Jimmy Garoppolo. If not, the hole will become that much deeper.
The Patriots, who have won 11 consecutive division titles, have missed the playoffs just twice since the 2001 season. They haven’t finished with a losing record since the 2000 campaign, Belichick’s first with New England.