At 3-2 through five games the Patriots are by no means in trouble. That record is good enough for a share of the lead in the AFC East, and most team around the league would be content with being in the mix at this early stathe of the season.
But the Patriots aren't most teams. In New England a 3-2 record is cause for concern, especially for a team that many felt would be a huge favorite to repeat at Super Bowl champions.
Spotty play highlighted the first five weeks, mostly on defense but also along the offensive line. Tom Brady was sacked 16 times in those five games and hit hard often. He landed on the injury report with a shoulder issue as the Patriots prepared to take on the New York Jets in a battle for first place on Sunday. Clearly he cannot continue to suffer that kind of punishment.
The offensive line isn't alone among the culprits, however. The secondary was supposed to be improved with the addition of Stephon Gilmore, yet each of the opposing quarterbacks the Patriots have faced has topped the 300-yard mark. The run defense and pass rush haven't been any better, meaning the play on defense has suffered all around.
With all that in mind this week's Samsonite Make Your Case question asks: Which area needs to improve the most for the Patriots to succeed?
PFW's Andy Hart says ...
Tom Brady is simply getting hit too often for the Patriots to achieve their ultimate goal - which as always is to win the Super Bowl. Unless that changes, it will be awfully difficult for New England to overcome those hits.
Brady was sacked 16 times over the first five weeks, which puts him on pace to be sacked about 51 times this season. To put that in perspective, Brady's career high is 41 and that came way back in 2001. The offense can certainly score with anyone when Brady is protected but unless things tighten up soon I'm not sure he will make it through healthy enough to be at his best.
Poor pass protection has been a major factor in all of the Patriots playoff losses over the years and that will be the case again if things don't improve.
PFW's Paul Perillo says ...
Stop me if you've heard this one before: the NFL is a passing league. Now that we can agree on that time-honored cliche, if you can't stop the pass you can't win the Super Bowl.
The Patriots secondary was supposed to be the strength of the defense but so far it has been anything but. High-priced free agent corner Stephon Gilmore only recently showed signs of life playing man against Tampa's Mike Evans. He needs to show some consistency moving forward. Malcolm Butler needs to improve as well, and safeties Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung haven't played to their previous levels either.
The best offenses have the ability to throw the football and having a secondary suffering through communication issues and spotty play won't work. The coverage needs to be better to win it all.
Now it's your turn to cast a vote in this week's Samsonite Make Your Case poll question.