Forget NFL ‘extremes,’ Patriots are a middling team in every sense


The Patriots have had very good reason for victory laps this season. That Week 5 shutout win over the ferocious Lions was a deserving performance!

Of course New England’s also had worthy walks of shame, no effort more shameful than the Monday Night Football mishap against those bad news Bears.

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Along the early season way there’s been at least one Moral Victory Monday after putting up the good Bailey Zappe fight in Green Bay. But that’s probably balanced out somewhat by what could easily and accurately be termed Moral Loss Monday this week after the Zach Wilson-gifted win in New York.

“I think the one thing you always have to acknowledge is, look, this is a league of extremes. Right? We’re either the best or the worst every week,” Patriots quarterback coach Joe Judge observed this week. “That’s just the nature of what it is. That’s what makes this game fun. Everyone can debate about it, talk about it. And that’s the element that really makes it great for the fans.”

Well, great half the time anyway if you’re a team like the Patriots. Because four times Bill Belichick’s team’s been a winner. But equally as often, four times New England has been a loser.

As the midpoint of the season approaches with Sunday’s hosting of the Colts at Gillette Stadium one thing has become abundantly clear – the 2022 Patriots are very much a middling football team. Not terrible. Not great. Not a true contender, but not contending for a top draft pick, either.

Maybe no statistical measurement other than the team’s perfectly .500 but last place record tells the tale of these Patriots better than turnover-differential. New England is a very middling tied for 15th in the league in the critical category thanks to 16 takeaways balanced out by 16 giveaways. Yup, the Patriots are actually tied for the NFL lead in takeaways, while also tying for last in the league in giveaways.

Talk about middling.

In fact nearly every statistic tells the same tale of mediocrity.
The Patriots are 17th in points scored and 12th in points allowed, numbers that have been marginally better or worse at times along the bumpy way.

Seemingly every supposed strength – the 13th ranked rush offense – is balanced out by a clear weakness – like a passing attack that’s 23rd in the league. Average it out and you have a very average offense leading a very average team.

Heck, even Belichick, Matt Groh and the New England front office seemed to take a middling approach to this middling team at what was the most active and exciting NFL trade deadline in history.

Wannabe contending teams like the Ravens, Vikings and Dolphins made major moves to improve.

Scuffling squads like the Panthers and Broncos sold off pieces, likely with an eye on long term stability and success moving forward.

Meanwhile in Foxborough the Patriots did a whole lot of nothing. No buying. No selling. Just standing Pat in the midst of a middling season with little hope at the end of the schedule tunnel, a New England schedule that according to Pro Football Focus is the toughest in the NFL over the next 10 weeks.

Why not add a linebacker to the needy mix if you truly believe in a New England team that’s currently just a half-game out of the postseason picture in the AFC? Invest, even minimally, in potentially securing a spot in the playoffs come January.

Or, why not send a soon-to-be free agent like Isaiah Wynn packing to add some draft capital for next spring, potentially valuable chips for a team that’s suddenly on a bit of a heater with its recent draft efforts? Open up some playing time for young players to invest in the future if this season is, as it appears, essentially going nowhere.

Nope, a middling team choose to very much sit on the fence at the NFL trade deadline, no better or worse today than before.

Maybe the Patriots will stop seesawing between success and failure at some point this season. Maybe the bouncing back and forth between winning and losing will cease as the critical stages of November and December unfold.

Maybe such formidable foes on the upcoming slate of games aren’t as good as they appear on paper. Maybe the Bills (twice), Dolphins, Vikings, Bengals (now a “layup” win for the Patriots don’t ya know!) and the rest are misleading with their winning records and potentially dominant star-studded offensive attacks.

Most likely, through the ups and downs of the first two months of the season littered with extreme wins and extreme losses we’ve found out that the Patriots are exactly who many of us thought they were – a middling football team that’s far from inept but far from dominant. An average squad with average at best talent.

The September extension of the preseason is long behind us. The dream of meaningful postseason play is a long way off. New England is in true middling midseason form.

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