The Patriots are on the bye week, giving everyone a chance to catch their breath and refocus on the upcoming drive to the end of the season. At 8-1 the team is sitting atop the AFC standings, in the driver's seat for a playoff bye and homefield advantage.
But it won't come easily. The team faces their toughest gauntlet of the season, against teams with winning records in five of their next six contests. And despite having just one loss, the team certainly has a list of areas where they can be better, many of which reared their ugly heads in a 37-20 loss to the Ravens last weekend.
There are a number of intriguing players who have not yet debuted for the team or not yet made their expected impact on the season. N'Keal Harry is back on the active roster after spending the first two months of the season on IR. Isaiah Wynn will be eligible to return against the Cowboys on November 24th. Matt LaCosse and Rex Burkhead have been fighting injuries all season while Sony Michel has yet to reach the level of production he had as a rookie. Damien Harris has yet to get any meaningful carries.
Any one of those players could be due to make an impact and help fix some of the Patriots' weaknesses and elevate the team to a Super Bowl level.
This week's Samsonite Make Your Case is…
Which Patriot is most important to the team's second half?
Paul Perillo says …
There are a numbers of factors that have contributed to the inconsistencies of the Patriots offense. Rob Gronkowski's retirement, the absence of David Andrews and injuries to Isaiah Wynn and James Develin would all qualify. But to me it all comes down to Sony Michel and his ability to grind out the tough yards between the tackles.
Michel turned a solid rookie season, averaging 4.5 yards per carry while piling up 931 yards in just 13 games. This season it's been a different story, however. Michel averages just 3.3 yards per carry and has just 482 yards on 144 attempts. His production has been particularly spotty in short-yardage situations and in the red zone, which has led to problems finishing drives.
While the sagging running game is not all Michel's responsibility, he is the key to potentially improving the situation. He needs to hit the holes more consistently and continue to run north-south, as he did as a rookie. That will allow the offense to achieve more balance and keep the unit out of the third-and-longs that have been tough to convert.
If Michel reverts to 2018 form, the offense should see plenty of improvement.
Mike Dussault says…
Wynn was an unknown commodity coming into the season but once the first-round pick was inserted at left tackle his athleticism and technical ability were immediately apparent. Wynn lasted just one game and 12 snaps into the second before a turf toe injury sidelined him again.
Now back practicing with the team and showing no ill effects from the injury, Wynn is primed to reclaim his starting spot on the blindside and should instantly give a boost to an offensive line that badly needs it.
Marshall Newhouse hasn't been quite as dreadful as many might make him out to be, but his lack of athleticism is glaring at times and can limit the Patriots playbooks. With Wynn back, the screen game and outside zone runs will get an immediate upgrade, not to mention his ability to mirror the fastest pass rushers out there.
The offensive line is deeply involved in all aspects of the offense, hence Wynn can help boost both the passing and running games, and help fix some of the struggles the Patriots have had on that side of the ball, the biggest weaknesses on the team.