Things didn't look good back in September when the Patriots were struggling as a middling .500 team at 2-2. But then October came around and suddenly everything changed. The offense woke from its early-season slumber and exploded with 43 points against Cincinnati and hasn't looked back.
Now, as New England is in the midst of its bye week, no team is hotter. The Patriots won five in a row and the offense averaged better than 40 points per game during the streak.
Meanwhile the defense has more than held its own at the same. Darrelle Revis has transformed the secondary into a stingy unit, and one that leads the league in turnover ratio. Brandon Browner returned from his suspension and Vince Wilfork is leading an undermanned group up front, giving the Patriots the physicality needed to survive on the defensive side of the ball.
At 7-2 and atop the standings in the AFC, the Patriots are riding high. With some time to reflect during the bye week, this week's Samsonite Make Your Case question asks: Who is the Patriots midseason MVP?
PFW's Andy Hart says ...
It's become pretty clear over the last two seasons that Gronkowski is the most important aspect to the New England offense's dominance. He scores nearly a touchdown per game. He makes the jobs of everyone else on the offense – literally all 10 guys – easier when he steps on the field.
According to Brady himself, Gronkowski causes panic in opponents' defenders. According to Josh McDaniels, Gronkowski literally allows others to go almost uncovered on touchdowns, as was the case with Shane Vereen against the Broncos.
The Patriots have been a juggernaut on offense the last five games, averaging 40 points per game. Brady is putting up big numbers. And all that success comes thanks to the fact that Gronk is back to full health and full playing time, things that weren't true in the first, struggle-filled month of 2014. Gronkowski's 49 catches for a team-high 663 yards with a team-best eight touchdown catches are very impressive. But those numbers don't even scratch the surface of what he means for the Patriots offense. Not only is he the New England MVP at the bye week, he should garner NFL MVP votes at the end of the season if he continues on with his incredibly dominant play down the stretch.
PFW's Paul Perillo says ...
Things weren't looking so good for the 37-year-old quarterback at the start of the season but what a difference a month makes. After throwing just four touchdown passes and averaging less than 200 yards passing a game in September, Brady now resides among the league leaders with 2,392 yards passing and 22 touchdowns.
Brady's skills were never in question but some doubted (OK, I did) whether or not he could still move around the pocket and find ways to make those around him better. Over the past five games that's exactly what he did, turning the likes of Brandon LaFell, Tim Wright and Shane Vereen into vital parts of an offense that appeared to lack weapons.
Obviously having Rob Gronkowski at his disposal doesn't hurt, but few would argue that Brady's play this season is the single biggest reason for the team's success and he's clearly been the MVP.
Now it's your turn to cast a vote in this week's Samsonite Make Your Case poll question.