The Seattle Seahawks allowed the Buffalo Bills to score 25 points on Monday Night Football. The Seahawks won the game, giving the New England Patriots essentially a 4-game lead in the AFC East (3 games + tiebreaker over #2 Miami Dolphins).
But those 25 points pushed the Seahawks up to 134 points allowed over the course of 8 games. The Patriots have allowed 132 points over the course of 8 games.
The New England Patriots are your new #2 ranked team in points allowed per game halfway through the 2016 season.
Only the Minnesota Vikings (15.75 points allowed per game) rank ahead of the Patriots (16.5 PAPG). You could also point to the Arizona Cardinals (17.5 PAPG) since 14 of their points allowed have been given up by the offense on fumble returns. When you remove non-defensive allowed scored, the Cardinals leapfrog the Patriots with 15.75 PAPG and the Vikings creep further ahead with 14.75 PAPG.
But football is a team sport and the Patriots, as a team, have allowed fewer points than all but the Vikings. The Patriots might not be considered an “elite” defense, but few have been more successful in 2016.
The “elite” Seahawks defense allowed Bills QB Tyrod Taylor to produce 332 yards and 2 touchdowns on Monday Night. One week prior, the Patriots allowed Taylor to generate just 231 yards and 1 touchdown. Falcons QB Matt Ryan and Saints QB Drew Brees combined for 600 passing yards and 5 touchdowns in their two games against the Seahawks defense. The rest of Seattle’s schedule reads like the Patriots, with games against the Cardinals, Bills, and Dolphins, along with the Rams and 49ers taking the place of the Browns and Steelers.
The Vikings went from 12.6 PAPG during their five-game win streak to start the season, but have allowed 21.0 PAPG during their three-game losing streak. The Cardinals are turnover reliant on defense and lost to a back-up quarterback playing in his first start on the road in the season opener.
These defenses aren’t questioned for their abilities. The Seahawks are dealing with injuries. Of course the Vikings and Cardinals will allow more points when the offense can’t stay on the field. That’s why it’s a team sport and players on both sides of the ball have to step up.
The Patriots defense has had their down moments in 2016- the 4th quarter against the Cardinals, the second half against the Dolphins, the middle two quarters against the Steelers- but they’ve yet to put up a stinker. They’ve allowed more than 8 points in a quarter just twice all year (Q2 vs Steelers, Q4 vs Dolphins), and they’ve allowed three touchdowns just three times all year (Cardinals, Dolphins, Bills; the latter two involved garbage time scores).
This is a defense that might have a bad quarter in every game, but it can also win games like they did against the Texans and Bengals.
This New England is not perfect. They could improve their pass rush (former DT Chris Jones is available and he could be a nice sub-rusher), which would probably lead to more turnovers and a reduced completion rate against. They could cut down on penalties. They could continue to improve on 3rd down, although the current 40.6% conversion rate against is negligibly different from the 40.2% conversion rate allowed in the 2014 Super Bowl season.
At the end of the day, the Patriots defense is good enough to win in a conference without good offenses. The unit benefits from the best offense in the NFL, but they held their own when Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski were sidelined. They are allowing fewer points than only a couple teams in the entire league.
And next week offers a showdown between the elite Patriots defense and the lesser Seahawks defense. It should be a good one.