Ahhh, the bye week. A time to relax and reflect without a football game to worry about.
The 2017 campaign so far has been interesting to say the least. Let’s face it, they’re always interesting in unexpected ways. But the headline, as always, are injuries. Injuries define NFL seasons now, and the Patriots are not immune and this year they’ve been hit as hard as ever.
Usually injuries are the only thing that stands between the Patriots and a last-possession game in the Super Bowl that could go either way. In 15 seasons together, Brady and Belichick have played in AFC title game 11 times.
2005 was one of the years they bowed out in Denver. That team had critical injuries (Matt Light, Rodney Harrison) and was one of Belichick’s worst Patriots defenses. But even then the problem in 2005 was not getting a bye. If that Bronco game was in New England it probably would’ve had a different outcome. In 2009, there was the backbreaker injury to Wes Welker in the last meaningless game. In 2010, it was the Jets bouncing back from a 45-3 beatdown to execute the perfect game that exposed a flawed defense that had survived on turnovers.
That was the last time the Pats weren’t playing in the conference championship game, seven long years ago.
My point is this — Does this Pats team have some of the injury issues those teams had? Yup. Will their (currently improving) defense be exposed at home by the right team? We’ll see.
Losing Rob Ninkovich, Julian Edelman and Dont’a Hightower says it all. Those guys were the playmakers of the last four seasons. The guys who made big plays in big moments, and that isn’t easy to replace.