New England seems to be in for a long rebuilding process. Their coach, on the other hand, has developed a great defence in a conference where no team appears capable of dominating.
The New England Patriots had a hard season and a half, and the post-Tom Brady era looked dismal. The Bills appeared to be built to win the AFC East for years to come, while the Patriots, with their rookie QB, appeared to be in for a long rebuild. However, before Pats supporters had a chance to consider what it might be like to lose frequently, the team began to win. And I'm still winning. New England's 25-0 thrashing of the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday night was the team's sixth win in a row.
The 7-4 Patriots have been transformed into real Super Bowl contenders because to Belichick's defence. The unit has restricted its last three opponents to a total of 13 points (including the Browns and Panthers). The defence is formidable. It is quick. It's a physical thing.
Matthew Judon, Kyle Van Noy, and Dont'a Hightower are all dominant linebackers. At safety, Adrian Phillips and Kyle Dugger regularly block up passes and make punishing tackles. JC Jackson, an undrafted cornerback who was thrust into the spotlight as Stephon Gilmore's replacement, has been a revelation. On Thursday night, Jackson limited the Falcons to to one grab for seven yards on three targets. This version of the Patriots defence was not going to give up 28 points to this iteration of the Falcons attack. Matt Ryan appeared to be the most shell-shocked and battered we've ever seen him.
Mac Jones has improved as a quarterback as the season progressed, and he's having the best year of the rookie quarterbacks. Jones, on the other hand, is still capable of a couple of throws every game that he wishes he could get back and lacks some of the top NFL quarterbacks' explosive playmaking ability. Dean Pees, the Falcons' defensive coordinator, did an excellent job of perplexing Jones and the Patriots' offensive line. On Thursday, the score could have been 45-0 if Jones had been Tom Brady in his prime.
While the Patriots are far from perfect, they do have some huge help from their AFC counterparts, some of whom have gone from dominance to disaster. Frank Reich and the feisty Colts demolished the Bills from start to end on Sunday, leaving Buffalo with a stunning 41-15 victory.
The Bills, who were a preseason Super Bowl favourite, started well with a 5-2 record, albeit they didn't beat any of the NFL's premier teams, whatever that means these days. Then, just two weeks ago, they were humiliated by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Sean McDermott was outcoached by the Colts.
For the Bills, there were numerous drops, including a few by Dawson Knox. That wasn't the only issue, though. Untimely penalties, weak backup performance, and four turnovers marred the game. Unlike the Patriots and Chiefs, who won their fourth straight game against Dallas on Sunday, the Bills may have peaked too soon. Or maybe Josh Allen's brilliance last season was unsustainable, and he's just a decent quarterback, not a great one.
On Sunday, the Tennessee Titans were defeated by the Houston Texans, perhaps the weakest team in the NFL. They still lead the AFC South by two games, but without Derrick Henry and, to a lesser extent, Julio Jones, their offence appears to be in shambles.
Even the Chiefs, who have discovered some magic, don't have the same kind of offensive firepower as in previous years. And the Ravens, who beat the Bears with Tyler Huntley in a nail-biter, are inconsistent and have a quarterback in Lamar Jackson who seems to get sick a lot for a 24-year-old exceptional athlete.
While defence may not always win championships, it does help when the opponent offence isn't up to par. As a result, we can confidently welcome New England and their tough defence back into Super Bowl contention at this time. Some things never change in the NFL.