The New England Patriots are a bad football team.
This isn’t an overreaction to New England getting blown out for the second week in a row, but Sunday’s 33-6 loss to the San Francisco 49ers emphasized the clear issues with Bill Belichick’s team.
The most notable problem is the lack of weapons on offence. The Patriots have the least talented group of receivers -- they lack speed and separation ability -- and tight ends in the league (yes, worse than the Jets), and it is limiting the offence, especially Cam Newton. Newton has not thrown a passing touchdown since Week 3, and the team has just one total touchdown over the last two weeks. The offence has been sputtering as a result, and some of Newton’s bad habits which include poor mechanics, a penchant for turnovers, and a lack of accuracy - which we previously praised him for improving on -- have resurfaced. He was 9-of-15 for just 98 yards with three interceptions in Week 7 before he was benched in the second half. The big concern is that without a trade or major personnel adjustment, the issues with the skill position players is not fixable.
The most surprising element of Sunday’s loss. however, was how poorly the Patriots played on defence, the bread and butter of this roster. All of the opt-outs and personnel losses (Dont’a Hightower, Patrick Chung) before the season are starting to catch up with them and the unit had easily had their worst game of the season against the 49ers. There were basic communication errors, leading to coverage breakdowns, and the talent deficiencies in the front seven allowed the team to be gashed on the ground by San Francisco’s third string running back, Jeff Wilson Jr., who had 112 rushing yards and three touchdowns. This has to be killing Belichick.
The lack of playmakers overall stand out while watching any New England game this season, and will be a recurring problem for suddenly the third-best team in the AFC East.
Can Washington win the NFC East?
It says as much about the ineptitude about the NFC East as much as anything, but the Washington Football Team are suddenly in the playoff race, despite a 2-5 record. They are somehow half-a-game out of first place, and already own the tiebreaker over the Philadelphia Eagles, currently leading the division. Head coach Ron Rivera helped bring respectability back to an organization in complete turmoil, and the team has been performing admirably since sitting QB Dwayne Haskins. They have gotten impressive production out of promising young players such as Antonio Gibson, Terry McLaurin, and defensive linemen Chase Young and Montez Sweat over the last month, who were all big factors in the one-sided win over the lowly Dallas Cowboys in Week 7.
Washington has a very favourable schedule over the next month -- with matchups against the Cowboys, New York Giants, Detroit Lions, Cincinnati Bengals -- and as crazy as it sounds, could actually push for a playoff spot with Kyle Allen at QB. I can’t believe I just typed that. Organizationally, there’s no doubt they are moving in the right direction.
Seahawks need to acquire a pass rusher
The Seahawks had an improbable late-game meltdown in its overtime loss to the Arizona Cardinals, but regardless of the result of Sunday’s game, a glaring issue continues to haunt them, and needs to be addressed or else it could waste a career season from Russell Wilson. The team simply has no pass rush and needs to bring in a veteran addition to the defensive line. Seattle had an abysmal zero quarterback hits (and obviously zero sacks) against Kyler Murray in five quarters and simply does not have a single player on its defensive line that constantly disrupts quarterbacks. This makes it too easy for opposing offences, and is why Seattle is constantly fighting to win games in the final minutes, despite being up by double-digits in the second half in almost every game they’ve plated.
This weakness is an indictment of Seattle’s peculiar offseason where they didn’t do enough to address the defensive line in free agency, letting Jadaveon Clowney walk, and instead paying three draft picks for safety Jamal Adams. They need to make another trade to fix this, or else, as we saw with Murray on Sunday, they are asking to be picked apart if they have to play a quality quarterback. There are some veteran pass rushers available before the trade deadline, and it would be a disservice by the Seattle front office not to address this.
Steelers look like the best team in the NFL
On the opposite end of the spectrum in terms of defense are the Pittsburgh Steelers, who are now the lone undefeated team in the NFL after beating the Tennessee Titans in Week 7. The Steelers, similar to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, are a well rounded team with a veteran quarterback mixed with a quality group of young skill players, and the best defense in the league. The Steelers went back-and-forth with the Titans and were able to build a big lead that allowed them to withstand three turnovers from Ben Roethlisberger.
Overall, the primary source of optimism in Pittsburgh has to be the play of its defence, which has blue chip players at all three levels -- most notably T.J. Watt, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Bud Dupree -- and that gives it a bit more flexibility than a team such as Seattle that is too reliant on its quarterback. Pittsburgh plays the Baltimore Ravens in Week 8 and that test should give us an even better indication of how good this team is.
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