After a rocky start, the Patriots hit their stride and are currently riding a five-game winning streak. The return of Julian Edelman and the arrival of Josh Gordon have helped the offense return to their usual productive ways, and the team hit the halfway mark of the season at 6-2 atop the AFC East and fighting for a first-round bye in the playoffs.
As spoiled as it makes us sound, these are things we've come to expect in New England. The team has been in the AFC title game each of the last seven years and has advanced to the Super Bowl in four of those seven years. So, it's not overly surprising the Patriots are enjoying team success.
What we don't always know are the individuals that are going to lead the way. With the Patriots at the midway point it's a great time to look back at those first eight games and figure out how they got here. So nothing fancy this week just a simple look at the Samsonite Make Your Case question of the week: Who was the Patriots MVP in the first half of the season?
PFW's Paul Perillo
The Patriots opened the season without Julian Edelman and having lost their top two receivers from a year ago during the offseason. Rob Gronkowski was the lone high-end option in the passing game, and Tom Brady had to figure out ways to make it work.
It wasn't always smooth but in six of the team's first eight games the Patriots managed to score 25 or more points as Brady leaned on Gronk and James White while incorporating players like Cordarrelle Patterson and Phillip Dorsett into the mix. Through it all he remained productive and hit the halfway mark among the league leaders in touchdown passes with 16.
But Brady's value is rarely completely tied to his actual play on the field. His mere presence impacts the game and forces defenses to account for his mind as well as his arm. By orchestrating the offense the way he does, Brady opens up opportunities in the running game and finds matchups that will best serve the team.
It may not have been the most productive stretch of his career, but Brady is still the team's MVP.
PFW's Andy Hart says …
It's hard to pick against Brady anytime we're discussing MVPs but the work of James White this season is just too great to ignore. White has consistently made all of the big plays when needed, whether that meant slipping out of the backfield for a key third-down conversion, running out the clock late in a win at Chicago or finding the end zone with alarming regularity, White has done it all.
Through eight games the veteran caught a team-best 55 passes for 459 yards and has eight total touchdowns. At times he's been the only reliable target Brady has had at his disposal, and yet he has allowed New England to maintain its usual levels of productivity throughout the first half.
White has emerged as a huge part of the Patriots offense over the last few years, particularly in the biggest games like the last two Super Bowls. Now he is showing the rest of the league that he's one of the best passing backs around and is making a bid to go to the Pro Bowl.
As tough as it is to say, he's the MVP over Brady.
Now it's your turn to cast a vote in this week's Samsonite Make Your Case poll question.