Ethan Bachand ‘22
Chief News Editor
I want to preface this article by saying that I am a life-long New England Patriots fan. Growing up, my dad and I would spend every Sunday afternoon in the fall watching them play; if we weren’t, it was because the game was on a Monday or Thursday. I also watched my dad sulk for the entire month of February in 2008, as the Patriots fell to the New York Giants, one game short of the illustrious “undefeated season.”
While coming so close left a bad taste in every Patriots fan’s mouth, it also left hope that it could be replicated by the same dynamic duo of Bill Belechik and Tom Brady. The 2019 season, like most seasons the Patriots start undefeated, has brought back the perennial question and central topic of this article: “Is this the year they can do it?”
It is with my fandom, father, and reality in mind that I must say, with a heavy heart, that the Patriots will not complete an undefeated season. Despite the talent-laden squad that has been formed in Foxborough, there are significant indicators that point towards the improbability of a 19-0 season. The competitive depth of the National Football League, the distinct possibility of injury, and the expected decline in production of the dominant defense all point towards a few tallies in the loss column.
Level of Competition
While it does not matter at the end of the season, a team’s record is even subject to a few asterisks. This certainly applies to the 5-0 record compiled by the Patriots, who have faced only one team with a winning record. The combined record of their opponents (including the Washington Redskins and Miami Dolphins) currently stands at 5-18, a measly .217 winning percentage.
On the flip side of the schedule, things look a little more competitive. A .453 collective winning percentage is not only double in comparison to the first five games, but it also includes offensive juggernauts of the league such as the Kansas City Chiefs, Houston Texans, and Baltimore Ravens.
While none of these games insure a blowout loss, they provide at least the possibility of defeat. At the very least, the challenge will be significantly steeper.
Possibility of Injuries
And to think, the Patriots are not even at full operating capacity. This season has already been drastically affected by the injury bug, most noticeably along the offensive line. Center David Andrews went down for the season with blood clots in his lungs, while starting left tackle Isaiah Wynn was placed on IR for a toe injury.
Other positions have not been safe either, with longtime kicker Stephen Gostkowski, fullback James Develin, and rookie wide receiver N’Keal Harry also taking places on the Injured Reserve list. Wide receivers Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, and Philip Dorsett II each have ailments they are dealing with.
With the possibility of 14 games remaining, it is inevitable that more injuries will come for the league’s oldest team in terms of average age (27.2). Even if it is only a few more, a key injury (maybe to a 42-year-old quarterback?) could bring down the current juggernaut.
Defense Slowing Down
Watching this defense perform through the first five games of the season has been nothing short of magical. All three levels of the unit are producing at a rate comparable to the dominant defenses of the early dynasty (2001-2005). The defense leads the league in yards allowed (238 YPG), points allowed (6.8), and sacks (24). Oh, and they haven’t allowed a single passing touchdown along with only two rushing touchdowns.
While the defense will continue to be a nightmare for the entire NFL, the two previous factors combined will eventually cool off this red-hot start. The competition will get tougher, with teams that have no problem putting up 30 points (such as reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes and the 29.6 PPG Chiefs). Not all players will stay healthy, and if a playmaker like Jamie Collins Sr. goes down, the whole dynamic shifts.
The 2019 New England Patriots are a force to be reckoned with and are on the march towards the postseason. According to ESPN’s Football Power Index, they have the best chance (29.9%) to win the Super Bowl, and it is hard to find fault in this metric. Rather, this piece serves more as a reminder of the challenges they will face along the way.
One or two losses does not mean a lost season, or a blemish on a Super Bowl winning, historically great team. It simply proves they are human. While the Patriots might be adding their seventh Lombardi Trophy to the collection in February, there is a low possibility it comes with the title of 19-0.