No Rob Gronkowkski? No problem for the Patriots, as this red-hot scoring machine roasted the New York Jets like a holiday pie of pigskin. The Patriots won 49-19 Thanksgiving night at MetLife Stadium.
The Patriots scored on offense, defense and special teams for the second week in a row and are ripping off points at an absolutely torrid pace:
- 407 in 11 games this season
- 190 in the last four games
- And an unbelievable 108 points in 103 hours from kickoff against Indy on Sunday through the final whistle against the Jets on Thursday.
The 2012 Patriots right now are doing something the Cold, Hard Football Facts thought near impossible: they are on pace to surpass the 2007 Patriots for the most points in NFL history.
The 2007 Patriots scored 589 points, or 36.8 PPG. The 2012 Patriots are scoring a shade better at 37.0 PPG. That puts New England on pace to score 592 points this year.
If things go right, and the Patriots continue to force turnovers and generate non-offensive scores, we could be talking about the first 600-point team in NFL history by the end of the December.
Is it possible? Let's look at the final five opponents.
Miami (Week 13, Week 17)
The Dolphins present a fairly formidable defensive obstacle, despite their 4-6 record. They're No. 8 in scoring defense, No. 6 in Bendability, our measure of defensive efficiency at Cold, Hard Football Facts; No. 4 in run defense (3.77 YPA), No. 4 in third-down defense (33.1% success against them) and No. 6 on the Defensive Hog Index.
Of course, they've shown plenty of cracks, especially in a 37-3 Week 10 loss to the Titans. The inefficient rookie QB Ryan Tannehill (6 TD, 11 INT), meanwhile, presents plenty of opportunity for the ball-hawking Patriots defense to crank out the non-offensive score or two New England will need to challenge 600.
The Patriots have also torched Miami for 144 points in their last four meeting (36.0 PPG), just shy of the 37.0 PPG New England has scored so far this year, and Tom Brady has repeatedly torched the Dolphins defense with big efforts.
Houston (Week 14)
We circled this Dec. 10 Monday Night Football clash in Foxboro as our pre-season choice of NFL game of the year back in August.
If all goes according to plan, the Texans will be 11-1 and the Patriots 9-3 during this game, with the New England needing a win in the race to secure a first-round bye in the playoffs.
Houston's defense looked deadly earlier in the year and a formidable challenge for any offense, including New England's
But the Texans have shown plenty of cracks in recent weeks: they needed overtime on Thursday to beat the Detroit Lions 34-31 and, a bigger concern for Texans fans, they needed overtime against the lowly Jaguars, too, before winning 43-37 on Sunday.
Jacksonville back-up QB Chad Henne lit up the Texans for 354 yards and 4 TD, while Detroit's Matt Stafford passed for 441 yards and 2 TD – not the kind of momentum Houston wants heading into Foxboro. The Patriots will need a similar performance from the offense to re-write scoring history.
San Francisco (Week 15)
If the Patriots fail to set the new scoring record, this visit from the San Francisco 49ers will probably be why.
The 49ers easily possess the best defense in football, surrendering just 13.4 PPG – an impressive feat in this day and age of high-tech passing games and pinball-sized point totals.
The 49ers have been even tougher in recent weeks, surrendering a total of 69 points in their last seven games (9.9 PPG). They've also feasted on the AFC East this year, destroying the Jets and Bills at home in consecutive weeks by a combined score of 79-3.
San Francisco is No. 1 in Bendability, No. 1 in Defensive Passing YPA (5.14 YPA), No. 1 on the CHFF Relativity Index, No. 3 on the Defensive Hog Index, No. 3 in third-down defense and No. 3 in run defense (3.67 YPA).
It's hard to envision a scenario in which the Patriots reach 30 points against the great 49ers defense.
Jacksonville (Week 16)
The Patriots will need to embarrass at least one other team to challenge the 600-point mark, and the 1-9 Jaguars are the most likely candidate to be victimized.
They are No. 29 in scoring defense right now (28.9 PPG) and have given up more than 30 points in three of their last six games.
Their hugely ineffective offense, meanwhile, averages just 16.4 PPG and gives the New England defense plenty of opportunity produce a few non-offensive scores.
For a little perspective on the Jaguars offense, they have scored 164 points all season. The Patriots scored 108 points from Sunday to Thursday.
A Scoring Bridge Too Far
Ultimately, the Cold, Hard Football Facts expect the Patriots to fall short of the 600-point mark and the all-time scoring record set by the 2007 team. Even if they do reach those records, it may not matter. Take a look at the top scoring offenses in NFL history.
- 2012 Patriots – 592*
- 2007 Patriots – 589
- 2011 Packers – 560
- 1998 Vikings – 556
- 2011 Saints – 547
- 1983 Redskins – 541
- 2000 Rams – 540
- 1999 Rams – 526
- 2004 Colts – 522
- 2010 Patriots – 518
11t. 2011 Patriots – 513
11t. 1984 Dolphins – 513 * projected; note: the AFL's Oilers scored 513 points in the 14-game season of 1961
Two things jump out from the list:
One, the Patriots will have produced four of the 12 greatest scorings seasons in history in the last six seasons – and one can only wonder what would have happened had Tom Brady not been lost for the entire 2008 season.
Two, only one of these greatest offenses in history hoisted the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the year. The 1999 Greatest Show on Turf St. Louis Rams were much more than just an offensive team. They were also No. 4 in scoring defense that year. Balance usually triumphs in the NFL postseason, and those 1999 Rams had plenty of it.
The Patriots don't have that kind of balance offensively and defensively. But if the opportunistic defense can continue to force turnovers and, more importantly, produce points, we could be talking about the most exciting and highest-scoring Super Bowl-winning team in history come February.