Football is already back upon us as the Patriots, donning all-white uniforms, will take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday Night Football in a game that will reveal a lot about a team that was shredded on defense just four short days ago.
Simply put, by any metric, this is the worst defense Bill Belichick has put on the field since he arrived. And I say this as a Patriots uber-blogger who has focused extensively on the defense for the past 10 years. From advanced metrics like Football Outsiders’ DVOA (a personal fave) to simple things like yards- and points-per-game, the Patriots defense has been the worst in the NFL.
Now they get a stiff test on the road, facing a talented passing attack run by Jameis Winston with talented receivers Mike Evans and Desean Jackson, and a fresh-off-suspension Doug Martin, not to mention two dangerous tight ends. We’re not used to the Patriots having their backs against the wall and teetering on the edge of uncertainty, but here we are, in Week 5, wondering if this defense can be salvaged.
Tom Brady is off to one of the best starts of his career, and the fact that he’s doing it at age 40 is simply incredible. It’s unfortunate that the defense suddenly looks so lost, because if this continues they’re going to waste one of Tom Brady’s final years. While we can count on Brady to put up over 30 points almost every game, it no longer assures a win.
Still, the defense’s problems are so fundamental, I can’t help but believe they’ll steady the ship. Can they do it on a short week and on the road against a good offense? We’ll find out tonight.
Here’s the gameplan to get a win and move on to an extended 10-day break to help re-evaluate how the team can move forward.