The New England Patriots defeated the Los Angeles Chargers 21-13 on Sunday in an great defensive performance, but a lackluster offensive one. There haven’t been many quarters of football this season where the Patriots have been clicking on both offense and defense at the same time, and New England fans aren’t the only ones taking notice.
Just ask Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers.
“I don’t think this is the best Patriots team they’ve had in the last decade,” Rivers said after the game. “I don’t think they would say that this is the best team they’ve [had] in decade. They’re still really good. They’ve beaten us just about every time I’ve trotted out there against them. They’re sitting there at 6-2 at the top. They’re going to be playing in January...”
Rivers is actually saying that while this Patriots team isn’t their best edition, they’re still the class of the AFC and will be a contender. Rivers was using the Patriots as a measuring stick for the Chargers team, saying that if Los Angeles was able to go toe-to-toe with the Patriots, then Rivers and his team aren’t far away from contending.
It’s not an insult, but instead an evaluation and a mirror.
Rivers isn’t wrong, either. He’s faced the Patriots eight times in his career and has a 1-7 record, with his lone victory coming against Matt Cassel in 2008. I would personally place this 2017 Patriots team somewhere ahead of the 2001, 2002, 2005, 2008, 2009, and 2013 seasons, and on par with the imbalanced and flawed 2006, 2010, and 2011 teams.
And with these unscientific rankings in mind, let’s compare the eight Patriots teams that Rivers has faced in his career.
8) 2008. Chargers W 30-10: It’s fair to say that the Chargers won their only game against the weakest Patriots team, right?
7) 2006 playoffs. Patriots W 24-21: When you’re down 8 points and you need to throw an interception on 4th down and force a fumble on the same play to stay alive, then it’s probably not your best team.
6) 2017. Patriots W 21-13: Let’s face it, this isn’t the strongest Patriots team. They need to figure out their red zone offense and quickly.
5) 2007 playoffs. Patriots W 21-12: The Patriots were limping at this point in the year with some glaring weaknesses. They weren’t the same team that set the league on fire.
4) 2011. Patriots W 35-21: No defense? No problem. The 2011 Patriots offense was outstanding and did enough to reach the Super Bowl.
3) 2010. Patriots W 23-20: The 2010 Patriots were one of the more well-rounded Patriots teams of the Bill Belichick era, but a shocking upset by the Jets in the playoffs ended their season.
2) 2014. Patriots W 23-14: Super Bowl bound, baby!
1) 2007. Patriots W 38-14: This was week 2 of the 2007 season and the Patriots were at their most unstoppable.