It's impossible to single out the impact of wide receiver Julian Edelman in the Patriots offense because the team has been battling so many injuries. The decline in the rushing game was more likely the injury to Dion Lewis than the disappearance of Edelman. The reduction in offense was connected to Danny Amendola's and Rob Gronkowski's knee injuries, and possibly Brandon LaFell reaggravating his foot injury.
But the gang is back and numberFire wants to put the Patriots offense in context of pre- and post-Edelman injury.
numberFire notes that for the first nine weeks of the season, quarterback Tom Brady produced an above-average play result at the 3rd best rate in the entire league. Between weeks 10 and 17, Brady ranked 35th out of 37 qualifying quarterbacks. A lot could be connected to Edelman's third down value.
"Edelman's value also really shines through on third and fourth downs. This season, he posted a 1.01 Reception NEP per target on third and fourth downs. That essentially means that, whenever the Patriots needed a first down and went to Edelman, it contributed more than full point to their expected points on average. Through just nine weeks, Edelman produced a shade over 21 points compared to expectation on third and fourth downs alone."
Over the first eight games with Edelman, the Patriots converted third downs at a 49.1% rate, second best in the entire league. Over the second half of the season, without Edelman, the Patriots converted at a paltry 36.1% rate, 23rd in the league.
The Patriots converted 50% of their attempts against the Chiefs, in Edelman's first game back.
What could be scary is how head coach Bill Belichick predicts Edelman will be even better against the Broncos.
"I'd expect him to get better this week than last week with the extra time and the extra amount of time he had to work with our offense and the quarterback and so forth," Belichick said. "Hopefully, that will continue to improve with him and other players that fall into that similar category."
The Patriots offense produced 3.30 points per drive over those initial eight games, followed by 1.84 points per drive over the back half of the season. New England scored 3.38 points per drive against the Chiefs.
This New England offense is back in the saddle. And they'll be even better this weekend.