Football Outsiders dedicated their weekly ratings analysis to the New England Patriots and how the team has greatly improved over the course of the season. They divide the Patriots offense and defense into nice groupings.
Offense before Brady and Gronk
The Patriots offense ranked 12th in the NFL while QB Tom Brady was suspended and while TE Rob Gronkowski was sidelined with his hamstring injury. According to Football Outsiders’ ratings, the Patriots were +2.8%, which means the offense operated 2.8% above the league average.
Offense with Brady and Gronk
Brady and Gronkowski returned from weeks 5 through 10 and the offense spiked to the 2nd best in the NFL. They received a rating of +32.0% and were scorching the league without much limitation. The Patriots 2007 offense received a score of +40.1%, for comparison.
Offense with Brady, without Gronk
Gronkowski was injured against the Seahawks and the Patriots offense has been +16.7%, or roughly half as effective as they were wit Gronkowski. The unit still ranks 7th in the NFL.
It’s clear that Brady is tremendously important to the success of the Patriots, but it’s also obvious how the team is better with Gronkowski on the field. In fact, the ratings imply that both players offer similar value added to the offense.
The defense has also improved in the same periods of time, going from -10.7% (28th in the NFL), to -2.7% (13th), to -12.0% (6th). When Football Outsiders sets the time frame as with Jamie Collins and after Jamie Collins, the Patriots went from -1.2% (18th) to +6.6% (10th).
The Brady/Gronkowski reference points can work for the defense when you change the labels to Freelance, In Flux, and Final Stretch. After a period of time where LB Kyle Van Noy, CB Eric Rowe, ED Jabaal Sheard, and CB Logan Ryan were in and out of the lineups, the Patriots defense has been dominant in recent weeks. What’s great about the DVOA statistic is that it accounts for the Patriots facing the easiest slate of opponents in the NFL.
Football Outsiders also presents a weighted ranking, which puts more weight on recent games and devalues earlier games- especially the Patriots weak start to the year. The Patriots defense ranks 6th in the NFL and the offense ranks 4th, which matches the eye test in recent weeks. When combined, the Patriots have been the best team in the NFL by Football Outsiders’ weighted rankings.