The Patriots are 2-4. The world has toppled off its axis and been cast into an abyss of nothingness. Even after a 7-9 season with a much worse roster in 2020, despair has arrived among some fans and media all the same.
But I'm here to provide hope. Like Barack Obama or myself last week when I wrote that the Cowboys are horrible, Trevon Diggs stinks, and the Patriots will blow out the Cowboys, I am the harbinger of hope. Okay, that isn’t what I wrote, despite how Cowboys fans on the la la land of Twitter dot com reacted.
The good news for the Patriots is that the stretch of games starting after their second and last matchup with the Jets this Sunday is not as daunting as it seemed a few weeks ago. In fact, the Jets matchup should serve as a decent slingshot into that run of games.
I’m referring to Weeks 8-10, a span which will see the Patriots play the Chargers, Panthers, and Browns. If the Patriots could hang with the elite of the elite in the Buccaneers and the Cowboys, this stretch shouldn’t be as daunting for the Patriots.
Justin Herbert is undoubtedly on his way to being an elite quarterback -- this is not an anti-Justin Herbert take -- but the team surrounding Herbert did little to support the young QB as he met his demise at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens this past week. LA’s offensive line lost right guard Oday Aboushi to an injury the week before, adding more adversity to a unit that already lost right tackle Brian Bulaga and is 26th in ESPN’s pass rush win rate category.
Defensively, the Chargers are among the bottom three teams if not dead last in any run defense category you can get your hands on. Despite being viewed as an all around crappy team, the Jets’ run defense is among one of the better in the league. The Patriots’ run game took a big step forward against the Cowboys -- a better test against the Jets might be just what they need to create momentum heading into the matchup with the Chargers.
If the Cleveland Browns were a building they’d be a hospital. The past week saw standout rookie linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah sent to injured reserve, Baker Mayfield be ruled out of Thursday Night Football with a torn labrum, and the duo of Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb go down with significant injuries. Part of the reason Cleveland was unable to slow down Herbert at all in the Week 5 matchup against the Chargers was because defensive backs John Johnson and Denzel Ward were knocked out of the matchup with injuries. Cleveland may be a better team then the Patriots, but in three weeks the Patriots will be the healthier team.
As for the once 3-0 Panthers, the injury to Chrsitian McCaffrey has completely derailed their offense. Without the McCaffrey safety valve, Sam Darnold has teetered on the edge of doing his best impression of himself under Adam Gase with the Jets, a tenure which Patriots fans recall as a W charity drive for the Patriots twice a year. McCaffrey technically could come off injured reserve prior to the Panthers matchup with the Patriots, but the fact he was placed on injured reserve this past week after missing three games with the injury indicates the hamstring injury may require more time to heal than initially thought.
The road map for the Patriots is clear: use this Jets game to rest the injured, get them healthy for the upcoming stretch, take a step forward in the aspects of the game the team is starting to excel in, and focus on the areas in which the upcoming teams have shown weakness in opposition to. If Belichick and Co. can do that, then the next span of games won’t be as intimidating as we thought them to be a few weeks ago.