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Who Are These Patriots?

Santa Belichick (Photo from Sports Illustrated)

The Patriots beat the Bills for the 13th straight time, but it wasn’t pretty as they were able to hold on to a 17-10 win. Brady threw for a season-low 115 yards and the Bills did their part by committing 11 penalties for 124 yards. It was the Patriots’ first legit road win, but somehow it doesn’t make me feel comfortable that this team won it’s first road game on Dec. 20. Here are my five thoughts on the Patriots’ playoff hopes this season:

Patriots lack a signature win

The Patriots just won their first legitimate road game and it was against the lowly Bills. The Patriots best wins have come against the Falcons, Ravens and Dolphins, who are all 8-6 or worse. The Patriots had their chances against the Broncos, Colts and Saints, but weren’t able to close out the opponent. Their struggles on the road are a huge concern because they will have to play two road games to make the Super Bowl. By comparison, Oakland has beat Denver, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Philadelphia. Anytime you can draw comparisons to the Oakland Raiders and they come out on top, it’s not a good thing.

Brady’s injuries aren’t going away

Ribs, finger, and shoulder. Those are the ailments that Tom Brady has been facing and they aren’t going away anytime soon. Brady has thrown under 250 yards in three of his last four games and in those three games he hasn’t thrown more than one touchdown pass. It’s clear that something is bothering him and he is taking a lot of hits, which could be a huge problem in the playoffs. It might be a good idea to sit Brady in Week 17 to give him a week’s rest before the playoffs. Without a healthy Brady, it’s tough to think the Patriots will make it far into the playoffs.

Patriots’ offense is only average

This season the Patriots have scored 59 points against a Titans team that quit and 35 points against an awful Buccaneers team. If you take away those games the Patriots have averaged only 22.6 points per game, which is the same as the Dolphins’ offense and worse than the Titans’ offense. Can you imagine a team that has Brady, Randy Moss, and Wes Welker scores the same amount of points as an offense that is led by Chad Henne and Ricky Williams? It is clear that this offense is under-performing, but there haven’t been any signs of them getting any better. In fact, it’s been the total opposite.

Team lacks an identity

In 2001, the Patriots had luck on their side along with opportune offense and in 2003-04 their great defense and running game won them two championships. In 2007 they were all offense all the time, but this season I am not sure what the team’s identity is. Their defense was overachieving early in the season and has completely disappeared and their offense has been great at home, but non-existent on the road. Their running game has been average at best, but it will be the key to keeping Brady healthy and their defense off the field. With Laurence Maroney, Fred Taylor, and Sammy Morris, the Patriots are well-equipped to have a run-first offense.

Can they win at Indianapolis or San Diego?

If I’ve learned one thing this season, it’s that there are no guarantees with the Patriots this year, so looking ahead to the second round of the playoffs might not even be an relevant issue. However,  I think the Patriots have a better chance against the Colts over the Chargers. The most important thing for the Patriots is to get Tom Brady healthy for the playoffs, which means giving him plenty of rest in the next two weeks. Hopefully they can win this week against the Jaguars so Brady can sit out in Week 17 vs. the Texans.

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