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Recent posts by Kevin Fishbain
Sure, the score was convincing — 34-3, but how confident can you be about the Patriots? With losses to the Steelers, Giants and Bills exposing some of the team's weaknesses, the Pats have yet to look like the "team on a mission" we heard about in the offseason.
The schedule is favorable, and the Patriots, if they take care of business, should be 13-3 and competing for the top seed in the AFC playoffs, but are they built to make a deep run? Is this team any better than last year's that got upset in the first round?
The defense is what it is, and fortunately for the Patriots, will likely be at full strength come the end of the season. What should be a concern, though, is the recent play of the offensive line, which was magnified early in the Monday-night win.
The Patriots' offense struggled to get going because Tom Brady was constantly under pressure in the team's first couple drives. The Chiefs, who came into the game with nine sacks total (six of which came from Tamba Hali), sacked Brady three times and hit him six times. One sack led to a fumble and a Patriots turnover.
If you ignore Brady's 52-yard touchdown pass to Rob Gronkowski, the reigning MVP completed 7-of-15 passes for 81 yards in the first half.
The O-line fared much better in the second half, allowing zero sacks, but if they struggled that much against the Chiefs, the Eagles' front line of Jason Babin and Cullen Jenkins could make things difficult this Sunday.
The Patriots' top competitors in the AFC — the Ravens, Steelers and Texans — all have aggressive defenses with corners that can keep the Pats' receivers in check and front sevens that will pressure Brady. The Eagles will provide a good test for the O-line, but the Patriots aren't going far in the playoffs if the front line plays the way it did in the first half on Monday night. Matt Light got injured, Sebastian Vollmer whiffed on Hali, which led to a sack, Logan Mankins leads the team in penalties and Dan Connolly has struggled at center. ORG Brian Waters has been the most consistent.
This is a veteran, well-coached group, but they can't afford to allow defenses a chance to punish Brady, and also need to fare well in the running game. The Patriots should win their division, it's on the O-line to improve for the playoff run.