Despite some bouts of inconsistency this season, the Patriots offense remains very productive. The group entered Week 13 tied for seventh in the NFL in points, and while that's a drop from the consistent top three units of the recent past it's still a very respectable position.
But lately there have been some struggles – most notably on third downs and in the red zone. Against the Jets in New England's Week 12 win, the offense rushed for 215 yards with rookie Sony Michel leading the way with a career-high 133.
That solid production on the ground has led to some thoughts of making the Patriots a bit more balanced on offense with more of an emphasis on the running game. It certainly worked against the Jets, but is that an approach that can create long-term success in the playoffs?
That's where we'll look for our next Samsonite Make Your Case question of the week. Should the Patriots offense be more reliant on the running game moving forward?
PFW's Andy Hart says …
The Patriots offense has been at it best this season when Sony Michel has been healthy and productive. During the periods of time when that hasn't been the case, things tend to bog down. So, why wouldn't Josh McDaniels want to keep up the momentum with the running game?
Tom Brady is still among the game's best quarterbacks, even in a season in which he hasn't been at his best. His occasional struggles, coupled with injuries and some inconsistency among his weapons, has led to a passing game that hasn't been as efficient as it has been in the past.
That's why the Patriots need to turn to Michel and the running game more often. The weather is getting colder and it will become harder and harder to execute in the passing game once it gets truly nasty here in New England. Michel can carry the load, and with Rex Burkhead coming back there will now be enough depth to keep it going.
Ride the hot hand and stay balanced.
PFW's Paul Perillo says …
This has nothing to do with Sony Michel's work or anything the offensive line has done in terms of the running game. Keep using Michel and others to keep things honest. But please don't try to become a run-first team.
In today's NFL it's almost a requirement to go out and score a ton of points. Running the ball almost inevitably leads to fewer possessions and lower scores, which in turn keep the opponent more competitive than they might be. That's exactly what happened against the Jets, when the Patriots ran wild but yet still had just 13 points late in the third quarter.
Tom Brady needs to keep working with Josh Gordon and hopefully Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski can stay healthy and be productive. That's the only way the offense will return to its truly dominant ways and be able to compete with the high-scoring units around the league.
Keep running it well, but the passing game will make or break the season.
Now it's your turn to cast a vote in this week's Samsonite Make Your Case poll question.