For the better part of the past decade the Patriots have been much stronger on offense than defense. Despite that imbalance, the team has remained at or near the top of the NFL consistently during that time thanks to the brilliance of Bill Belichick and the play of Tom Brady and his troops.
Over the first half (almost) of the 2018 season, that pattern appears to be surfacing once again. Brady and the offense have hit their stride, racking up 38 or more points in four straight games as they prepare for Monday night’s trip to Buffalo.
On the flip side, things haven’t been nearly as smooth on defense, where the Patriots are having trouble pressuring the passer and containing mobile quarterbacks. Even pedestrian offenses like those in Jacksonville and Chicago cracked the 30-point mark, and with very few exceptions the defense has had its problems.
Despite that New England is 5-2, sits atop the AFC East standings by a full two games and appears poised to once again be a major player in the postseason. Which leads us to this week’s Samsonite Make Your Case question: Can the Patriots win the Super Bowl if the defense doesn’t improve?
PFW’s Paul Perillo says …
I’m going to let you in on a dirty little secret: defense doesn’t win championships anymore. I’m not saying you can’t win with defense alone (Denver did it in 2015), but more often than not offense rules the day in the current NFL climate, and the Patriots have more than enough on that side of the ball to win it all.
I look back at last season when I felt similarly about the Patriots defense. The struggles of September were largely masked later in the season but they were still there, and in the Super Bowl the Eagles put up 41 points to win. Despite that poor showing, the offense was in position to win it all with one more drive and unfortunately fell short.
But it’s hard to say the Patriots could not have won it all with a subpar defense when the best quarterback in history had the ball in the waning minutes needing a touchdown to win. Clearly the team was good enough as constituted to capture another trophy; it just didn’t happen.
Sure the defense needs to improve but if it doesn’t I have no doubt the wins will continue and the playoffs will feature plenty of looks at frigid Foxborough. What happens from there is anyone’s guess, but no one will convince me the Patriots can’t win it all.
PFW’s Andy Hart says …
I believe the Patriots have an outstanding offense that is capable of putting up big numbers against any opponent. That’s not the question. But the way the defense has played puts an awful lot of pressure on that side of the ball, and if that doesn’t change then just like last season the Patriots will fall short eventually.
The defense hasn’t been strong really at any level. It doesn’t get a ton of pressure on the passer and the coverage has been spotty as well. It has done a nice job of creating turnovers but what happens when the opponent plays a clean game? In the playoffs when the teams are generally of a higher quality, all it takes is one solid performance to send you home.
As was the case in Super Bowl LII, the fatal flaw will be defense if things aren’t rectified. I believe there will be improvement, but will it be enough to not force the offense to win shootouts every week? If not, the season will end in defeat.
Now it's your turn to cast a vote in this week's Samsonite Make Your Case poll question.