Thinking about the state of play of the Patriots offense and the rampant mediocrity on display in the NFL these days makes me think of a few quotes from one of America’s greatest voices: Homer J. Simpson.
Yes, the NFL wanted parity and boy did they get it. The problem is that such parity has come with a giant side dish of mediocrity. I hope your Thanksgiving side dishes are much more enjoyable on Turkey Day.
Take some of the best teams in any of the conferences (Kansas City, Philadelphia, and dare I say Miami) and you’ve got plenty of mediocre teams and weekly results that are nearly impossible to project. Are you still alive in your knockout group? If so, you’re looking really good for a big part of the change this January. You would also be exactly the second person I’ve run into since the 2022 NFL season started to still be in the mix. An example of this parity/mediocrity is best on display with the suddenly down-on-his-luck New York Jets. New York’s NFL little brother took down the mighty Buffalo Bills (who were atop the division at the time), then, two weeks later, came to Foxboro and scored three points in a 10-3 loss. against the Patriots, who had offensive problems.
With mediocrity, however, comes opportunity for the New England Patriots, who at 6-4 currently sit as the sixth playoff seed in the AFC, moving up one spot after Sunday’s win over the rival Jets. of the division On Friday, October 7th, I took the mic for my first turn on “Late Night Friday Night” on WEEI. The Patriots sat at 1-3, mired in a frothy quarterback conundrum but with a solid month and a half of scheduling opportunity in front of them. That night, despite their inconsistent play and lagging offense (which has actually gotten incredibly worse since then), I declared on the air that the Patriots should win “five of the next six games against the Lions, Browns, Bears, Jets, Colts.” “. and Jets again.” The Patriots did just that, going 5-1 in that smooth six-week span.
Now sitting at 6-4, in the sixth AFC playoff spot, things get real for the perfectly mediocre, playoff-contending Patriots. The NFL and AFC specifically have lived up to the Patriots’ winning record and current standing to date, but starting on Thanksgiving night in Minnesota, the Patriots’ season really begins.
As records go, the Minnesota Vikings are on top with the best in the league, going 8-2 atop the NFC North Division. Despite trying as hard as Buffalo did to lose their Week 10 game against the Bills, the Vikings won their most exciting game of the year to date: a 33-30 overtime battle that left fans all over the world stunned. country finally entertained. How did they manage that a week later? On the short end of a 40-3 thrashing of the Dallas Cowboys. The point is, expect the unexpected when it comes to the Vikings and the NFL as a whole, with very few exceptions.
At 8-2, the Vikings should be a big concern for hopeful Patriots fans who dress up with their loose pants and full bellies on Thanksgiving night. Are they though? After a 40-3 rout at the hands of the Cowboys and being led by Kirk Cousins, who hasn’t won in primetime games thus far, I don’t feel too worried about them. I am very concerned about the Patriots’ offense, but the point is that the NFL’s sea of mediocrity is doing its part to help keep the Patriots’ 2022 season afloat.
The Patriots to date have shown a few things. Their defense can aggressively handle bad to mediocre (again that word) quarterbacks; wins over Mitch Trubisky, Jared Goff, Jacoby Brissett, Sam Ehlinger and Zach Wilson prove it twice. They’ve also shown they can make plays at both the front seven and secondary level at critical moments. They have shown that they can kill you with 1,000 paper cuts, that is, with a variety of field goals stalled in less than 50 yards to win points. Belichick has shown that, despite having very questionably entrusted his fledgling offense to Matt Patricia and Joe Judge, he can still plan his defense to keep games tight and winnable. So what’s left? That’s what we started learning Thursday night.
Now, despite the league parity, the upcoming schedule isn’t too bad. It features some opponents who scoff at mediocrity on occasion, but overall look better man-to-man and talent-versus-talent than the New England Patriots. That list includes Minnesota on Thanksgiving night, Buffalo (twice), Miami and the defending AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals.
So with 10 games on the line and a winning record for the Patriots, I think this Thanksgiving I’m grateful for parity and mediocrity in the NFL. That very real situation has kept the Patriots’ hopes alive. However, if you’re looking for an early Christmas gift, I don’t think the NFL will gift the Patriots any more programming gifts, though with the NFL these days, you never know. Happy Thanksgiving Day.