After four weeks of the 2015 NFL season, the questions are already beginning. Is it possible that the New England Patriots could go unbeaten? After impressive wins over Pittsburgh in the season opener and Buffalo in Week 2, the Bill Belichick and Tom Brady machine does look rather imposing. But, can the Patriots really go the entire 17-week season unscathed? It’s possible.
Through three games, New England is averaging nearly 40 points per game. The offense is explosive and it has everything to do with Brady at quarterback, tight end Rob Gronkowski, and wide receiver Julian Edelman. Brady is off to another great start. He is 96-of-133 for 1,112 yards and nine touchdowns in the Patriots three wins. His top target is Edelman, a former college quarterback, who has turned himself into one of the NFL’s best possession receivers. Edelman has caught 30 passes already and is averaging 93 receiving yards per game.
Gronkowski is the Patriots most intriguing weapon. At 6-6 and 260 pounds, Gronkowski is very athletic. Linebackers can’t match up with his speed and athleticism. Safeties can’t match up with his size. So far this season, Brady has found his big tight end 16 times for 308 yards, an average of 19.3 yards per reception. Gronkowski has four touchdowns thus far this season.
Barring injury, Brady, Gronkowski, and Edelman could finish as the respective leaders in passing yards, passing touchdowns, receiving touchdowns, and receptions. It is highly likely given the lack of a powerful running game. Dion Lewis is the team’s leading rusher and, through three games, has just 146 yards. The Patriots are near the bottom of the league, 27th to be exact, in rushing yards per game. Could the ground game prevent New England from an unbeaten season?
The Belichick Method
Despite not having a top notch ground game, Belichick finds a way to beat everyone. Just ask Seattle. In 2014, New England powered through a 12-4 season relying on what the Patriots do best – throw the football. Of the team’s 5,848 yards last season, 4,121 came through the air. New England averaged barely over 100 rushing yards per game but when they needed to, the Patriots came through on the ground.
In a Week 5 meeting with Cincinnati, which has had one of the league’s better defenses for the past several years, New England ripped the Bengals for 220 rushing yards in a 43-17 win. In a Week 11 showdown with Indianapolis, the Patriots ran for 246 yards in a 42-20 blowout of the Colts. When New England has to run the football, they find a way. When called upon, Lewis and LeGarrette Blount will provide the rushing yards behind one of the better, and more experienced, offensive lines in the NFL.
New England has a great shot at going unbeaten thanks, in large part, to its schedule. The AFC East Division is not the AFC North or NFC West. The Dolphins are horrible, Buffalo appears to be solid but is 2-2, and the Jets despite being 3-1 are still the Jets. The Patriots have already beaten Buffalo once and that was on the road.
Brady and company will take on Dallas on Oct. 11 coming off a bye week. The Patriots under Belichick are known for doing very well in games after a bye. The extra week gives Belichick and his staff extra time to figure out ways to destroy an opponent. The Cowboys will once again be without their quarterback, Tony Romo. After Dallas, New England does get Indianapolis again, but the Colts are just 2-2 and QB Andrew Luck is hurting.
The biggest road block on the schedule is a late November meeting with the Denver Broncos. New England must travel to Denver on Nov. 29. The Broncos, under new head coach Gary Kubiak, are 4-0 and have one of the league’s better defenses. Last season, New England beat the Broncos in Week 9, but did lose the last time the teams played in Denver. The Broncos scored a 26-16 win in the AFC title game at the end of the 2013 season.
The Patriots crossover and play the NFC East, which may be the league’s weakest division. The Eagles can’t seem to find their running game. The Redskins are up and down and the Giants still have the same problems they had a year ago. The bottom line is the Patriots schedule is favorable.
It is one of the more difficult tasks in all of professional sports. Navigating through an NFL regular season unbeaten in today’s age of parity is hard, but it can be done. The Patriots did it in 2007, recording a perfect 16-0 regular season. Can the 2015 Patriots do the same? It is entirely possible. New England has the players, the schemes, and the schedule to do so.