NFL Power Rankings: The Patriots and Steelers are who we thought they were
We wondered if the New England Patriots defense was fixable, even for a football wizard like Bill Belichick.
In the first month of the 2017 season, it looked as if the Patriots would play a season full of track meets, with all the players they let walk out the door, guys like Jamie Collins and Chandler Jones, catching up with them.
I would often send out tweets tweaking the New England faithful when Jones made big plays or the Pats defense looked really bad, which was often in the first month.
Now here we are 10 weeks into the season, and it isn’t that much of a concern anymore. Belichick did what he always does: He fixes things.
That’s why he’s arguably the best coach of all-time. It helps he has talented coordinator Matt Patricia, but Belichick made his reputation as a defensive genius, which is why the Patriots improvement in the past six games can be traced to his hoodie.
In the first four games, the Patriots gave up an average of 32 points. In the past six, it’s 12.4. That’s why they are again the odds-on favorite to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl, and why they are ranked second here in my Power Rankings.
The Patriots have turned it around without marquee players in the front seven, which might catch up to them at some point. They have only 17 sacks this season, which ties them for 26th in the league with the Dolphins and the Titans. They are also 29th in sacks per pass play. That isn’t good enough.
They are still ranked last in total yards and rush yards per attempt, which is an unreal 5.0 per carry. That could be their undoing if a team decides to pound the run in the postseason to keep Tom Brady off the field. That number has to come down.
But the way Belichick and Patricia have improved this defense the past six weeks, who are we to doubt that it won’t happen? This is why Belichick is a football-coaching star, even if sometimes it’s fun to question his decisions.