Jacob Kupferman/Associated Press
The Fresh England Patriots have quietly emerged as a darkish-horse Clear Bowl contender.
The Pats got off to a rocky 1-3 initiating, but they have won three in a row and 4 of their last five video games. Fresh England’s 5-4 story has the membership well positioned to overtake the AFC East-main Buffalo Funds, who fell to 5-3 with an embarrassing 9-6 defeat to the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars.
Buffalo’s loss has left the door extensive-originate for the Patriots to usurp the reigning divisional champions.
The avenue will now now not be easy—the Funds tranquil have the 2d-easiest odds to consume Clear Bowl 56, per DraftKings, whereas the Pats’ odds remain longer than 30-1—but Fresh England has a determined direction to now now not finest jabber the AFC East crown but furthermore consume it all this year.
The Pats have change into doubtless the most league’s most though-provoking contenders with Mac Jones below middle. The quarterback has stumbled on his footing as a assured game manager who has displayed uncanny poise for a 23-year-archaic rookie.
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Whereas Jones is never all the time hanging up nice numbers, he is taking just correct care of the football and hanging his team in direct to consume. The Alabama product ranks within the conclude 10 for accuracy, polishing off 68 p.c of his passes.
Jones struggled with turnovers and took some corrupt sacks early but has improved considerably within the last month.
Over the last four video games, he has tossed five touchdowns in opposition to two interceptions and introduced six sacks. It’s far a marked enchancment after the signal-caller used to be sacked 11 cases and threw as many interceptions as touchdowns (five) in his first five starts.
Jakobi Meyers has taken a step forward in 2021 whereas rising as one of Jones’ most official receivers. The third-year wideout has caught 46 of 72 targets for 434 yards, hanging him on stir to surpass his profession highs of 59 receptions for 729 yards region last season.
Kendrick Bourne has furthermore been a boon for the Pats. Whereas the 26-year-archaic hasn’t seen a ton of volume, he’s made the most of his looks, securing 29 of 39 targets for 422 yards and two touchdowns.
Jones would possibly maybe have established his strongest rapport with Hunter Henry.
Fresh England introduced within the tight surrender as a free agent to bolster a direct that offered the Pats with a paltry 18 receptions for 254 yards and one touchdown last season. Henry already has 27 catches for 316 yards and five touchdowns.
The Fresh England running serve platoon has taken several injuries in dawdle whereas remaining an on a typical basis source of producing, averaging over 100 yards per game. It’s achieved this despite losing James White, the team’s high drag-catching serve, for the season with a hip spoil.
Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson have every been banged up to boot, but Brandon Bolden—mostly a obvious groups contributor all over his 9 NFL seasons—has performed admirably when wished. The 31-year-archaic has rushed 22 cases for 108 yards and caught 22 of 24 targets for 189 yards and a web.
Fresh England has made strides on the defensive surrender to boot.
After being hit laborious by opt-outs and injuries last year, the team restocked the cupboard and has rebounded well. The Patriots rotten within the conclude 10 in total defense and are high-five in every scoring defense—allowing 18.9 ingredients per game—and takeaways after securing 16 via 9 video games.
The team has achieved this despite trading 2019 Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore. The Pats sent the cornerback to the Carolina Panthers for a sixth-round consume last month.
Fresh England clearly felt cheerful with its cornerback room, headlined by ball hawk J.C. Jackson. Jackson has followed up last year’s breakout 9-interception advertising and marketing campaign with five extra picks, collectively with his first consume-six.
The team furthermore introduced serve Jamie Collins, the damaged-down linebacker who played well for the Pats within the previous. He could now now not be stuffing the stat sheet—seven tackles, one interception and one sack in five video games—but he’s having an impact on this team.
Stew Milne/Associated Press
“He’s basically contributing reasonably a number of assorted ways,” Belichick instructed reporters Monday. “Setting a factual edge, playing off the ball, on the ball, particular groups, speeding the passer, playing in protection, so he’s helped us in reasonably a number of assorted ways.”
Collins is augmenting doubtless the most game’s easiest drag-rushers in prized offseason acquisition Matt Judon.
The gentle Baltimore Raven has been a revelation for Fresh England, racking up 9 sacks, tied for third-most within the league.
Judon and the revamped Patriots drag speed are up to 19 sacks, adding an edge the defense lacked in 2020. Completely five groups had fewer than Fresh England’s 24 sacks last year.
With a extra total team, the Patriots are poised to enact the year strong and make a playoff push.
They’ve a reasonably easy avenue over the final eight weeks, even if their energy of time table is the league’s 15th-most complex since their opponents have a collective .500 story.
Elise Amendola/Associated Press
The team has winnable video games in opposition to the Atlanta Falcons, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars and Miami Dolphins.
Fresh England’s remaining three opponents are all above .500, but one is a 7-2 Tennessee Titans team that lacks the heart of its offense following Derrick Henry’s foot spoil.
Whereas the Titans got here up with a gigantic consume in Los Angeles in opposition to the Rams, it took a herculean defensive effort—Tennessee have to aid these performances to live a contender—and an uncharacteristic pair of interceptions from quarterback Matthew Stafford to seal the victory.
The assorted is the up-and-down Cleveland Browns, a 5-4 squad reliant on its speed game even sooner than losing one of its high receivers in Odell Beckham Jr.
That leaves two matchups with the Funds in Weeks 13 and 16 that tend to resolve the division.
If Fresh England can procedure and Buffalo stumbles down the stretch—the Funds have matchups in opposition to the Fresh Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers—the Pats have a shot at claiming their 12th AFC East title in 13 years.
Incomes home-field advantage within the Wild Card Spherical would help Fresh England immensely. A playoff consume in Foxborough would possibly maybe give the team the momentum it wants to mount a Clear Bowl speed.
Furious by how wrong the AFC’s high groups are, the relaxation would possibly maybe occur approach January.
The Ravens are atop the AFC North but have yet to accumulate great success within the playoffs all over the Lamar Jackson generation. The Kansas City Chiefs are tranquil liked to emerge from the extensive-originate AFC West, but their offense looks fancy a shell of the one which carried the membership to serve-to-serve Clear Bowl appearances.
If the Pats develop reach the Clear Bowl, the Buccaneers are the favourite to fulfill them.
After proving it will also aid a game in opposition to Tampa shut in an story Week 4 matchup that went down to the wire, a extra experienced Fresh England team would possibly maybe be itching for one other probability to descend gentle quarterback Tom Brady and the defending champs.
At its fresh odds, Fresh England can even be the finest rate wager to emerge from this chaotic advertising and marketing campaign with the Lombardi Trophy.
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