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The Patriots have some of the fewest explosive plays in the entire NFL

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Cause for concern, or just business as usual?

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s be real, if we’d been talking about this back in September, we’d just be grateful to have plays, period. Like, anything that worked on a remotely consistent basis. We’re all definitely used to the September Scaries by now with the Belichick Patriots, but that doesn’t make you want to smash your head on the bar or fight a Yankees fan any less when we’re in the thick of it.

Fortunately, all of that silliness was cured with a date with Miami and a 38-7 thrashing of a then-undefeated Miami Dolphins amidst cries of IS THIS THE CHANGING OF THE GUARD IN THE AFC EAST?? Hey, if Miami is all it takes to cure what ails ya, Bernd, I can put that on the company card, right?

Meanwhile, with the current-day Patriots offense sharing Batman’s philosophy of “I’m whatever Gotham/New England needs me to be”, nobody’s mistaking them with Chiefs and their Mario Kart Blue Shell offense, but New England’s certainly hung plenty of points on the board over the weeks that Octoberfest’s been available. That’s what makes this assessment from ESPN a bit of an “O RLY?” situation:

K, no surprises at the top there, cool cool cool cool cool, Chiefs & Chargers, seems legit, no Patriots, but that’s...wait, they’re at THE BOTTOM?

Well, bottom-ish, but yeah. With “explosive plays” being defined as a 15+ yard run or a 20+ yard reception, the Patriots are barely meeting the zombie apocalypse standard of “just run faster than the guy next to you” down in the basement outpacing the Bills, Cardinals, and Titans...and nobody else.

(Gotta be honest though, it feels great to see the Eagles right down there with us. Hey, as long as they’re having fun, am I right?)

In case you missed it, our resident salary cap nerd enthusiast Brian Phillips crunched the numbers on what exactly the deal was with the Pats offense looking like most of us in the gym on January 2nd, and here’s the TL;DR

The Patriots haven’t created enough of the chunk plays between the 20s that lead directly to more red zone trips. In 2017, Brandin Cooks consistently stressed defenses by stretching the field, resulting in numerous long completions and defensive pass interference penalties on deep balls. This is where Josh Gordon’s skill set is needed the most.

More concerning than the depressed number of total plays in the red zone is the lack of a presence inside their opponents’ 11 yard line. Just 23.5% of the Patriots’ red zone snaps have come from inside the 11 yard line. Going back to 2013, no other Patriots team has had a percentage of less than 50%. That puts the offense at a tremendous analytical disadvantage.

Needless to say, the more opportunities a team can manufacture, the better opportunity they have of scoring. If that sounds incredibly simple, that’s because it is. The Patriots just need to get there more often — something Josh Gordon is certainly expected to help with.

Fast forward to the past few weeks, and Rob Gronkowski not operating at full Gronkitude sure isn’t helping either, but just like it’s been for the past, um, 15 years, a trip to the Bills this weekend also tends to cure what ails ya.

Even if “what ails ya” in this case means not piledriving the NFL in quite as spectacular a fashion as last year, or the year before that, or the year before that, or....

Also: bet?

Oh, it’s percolating, my fellow Matt...it is DEFINITELY percolating.