Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
Bad news first. The Patriots offense has issues. But here’s the good news: First, the Patriots are 10-1, and second, don’t tell the sports-talk professionals but there are three other units (including coaching), that are all performing at an above average or high level. In fact, that’s not only good news that’s GREAT news. Just ask the Cowboys - league leader in total offense and total passing, ranked 8th in rushing, but couldn’t find their way into the end zone on Sunday. The other good news is that while last week the Patriots offense scored just enough to win, they were a bare-bones unit. Phillip Dorsett (concussion) and Mohamed Sanu (ankle) will return soon, adding a couple of much-needed receiving options for Tom Brady. Here’s hoping Brady will have at least one of them make the trip to Houston to take on the 7-4 Texans in Week 13.
The Patriots aren’t rolling teams as they did in the first part of the season, but they’re winning gritty, wear-them-out close games and building that precious mental toughness both coach Belichick and Brady value more than sheer talent. Hope you like defense, because it’s the team’s strong suit this season. Might as well sit back and enjoy it while it’s here. Pats win this week by two scores.
Around the AFC East:
1st - NFL Nation (ESPN): What they’re thankful for: Having QB Tom Brady for 20 seasons. While this year’s team is defined more by its defense and special teams, Brady is 42, in the final year of his contract and helping keep things afloat on offense despite a short-handed personnel situation. He is the greatest leader in Patriots history. Given his uncertain contract situation, the franchise can be thankful for every day he still leads the huddle.
1st - Russell S. Baxter (Fansided): Recap: The AFC East leaders got some good news on Tuesday when the team activated left tackle Isaiah Wynn from injured reserve. But it was still another sluggish offensive performance by the reigning Super Bowl champions as Bill Belichick’s attack was limited due to injuries. Veteran quarterback Tom Brady threw for 190 yards and one score but completed less than 50 percent of his passes (17-of-37). But once again, the stellar New England defense and special teams came up big as the Cowboys’ offense was limited to 321 total yards and three field goals. And on each of the Patriots’ 10 victories this season, the opposition has been held to 14 or fewer points. Simply amazing. Next Week: The Patriots head south to Houston to take on a franchise that they have had enormous success against and also play in a building where they captured two of their Super Bowl titles. Including a 27-20 home win last season (Week 1), as well as two playoff meetings, the Pats own a 10-1 lifetime advantage vs. the Texans.
1st - Mike Cole (NESN): The Ravens are hotter and look far more explosive, but the Patriots still have home-field advantage, the greatest coach of all time and perhaps the single-greatest winner in sports history under center. Oh, and a potentially historic defense.
2nd - Staff (AP Pro32).
2nd - Lindsay Jones (The Athletic): It might be early to call the race, but Stephon Gilmore made a serious case for why he should win the NFL’s defensive player of the year award. He shut out Amari Cooper — Cooper had zero catches, and Gilmore had an interception while in coverage — as the Patriots provided a reminder of why they are the AFC’s best defense.
2nd - Pete Prisco (CBS Sports): They are winning games, but the offense remains a major concern. Is it fixable? It better be.
2nd - Tom E. Curran (NBC Sports Boston): They will be better offensively than they were the past two weeks. Signs of life in the running game — which we saw Sunday — will go further than anything we saw from the rookie wideouts. But the most important asset this team has right now is its collective IQ. Chance to show that once again on Sunday.
2nd - Mike Florio (ProFootballTalk): A Super Bowl berth hinges eventually on the ability to contain Lamar Jackson.
2nd - Nate Davis (USA Today): No complacency for what Tom Brady admits is sputtering offense, LT Isaiah Wynn and rookie WR N’Keal Harry, who scored his first TD, joining starting lineup Sunday.
2nd - Mark Maske (Washington Post): It was more of the same for the Patriots against the Cowboys. The defense was great. The special teams helped out. The offense was just kind of there. This is a 10-1 team so this is very much a first-world problem, in NFL terms. But can the Patriots really win another Super Bowl with the offense playing like this?
2nd - Frank Schwab (Yahoo! Sports): It’s hard to even get a read on the Patriots’ win, because the weather conditions made the game against the Cowboys ugly for both teams. It was a win and that’s the most important thing. Seeing the Ravens play on Monday night, the Patriots need every win possible. They want to catch the Ravens at home in the playoffs, not in Baltimore.
3rd - Consensus (BleacherReport): The New England Patriots scored just 13 points Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys—and won. The New England Patriots managed just 282 yards of total offense in Week 12—and won. In weather conditions that can best be described as icky, Tom Brady completed less than half his passes for just 190 yards—and the Patriots won. There’s been no shortage of hand-wringing regarding New England’s scuffling offense, but the Pats were still the first team in the AFC to reach the 10-win mark, and Davenport remains unworried about the Patriots’ ability to hang with the league’s best teams once the playoffs roll around. “Tom Brady is old,” he said. “The receivers are a mess. The offense is 13 packets of weak sauce. Blah blah blah. New England’s defense is as good as any in the NFL, and last I checked, the Patriots have a quarterback and head coach who have lofted the Lombardi Trophy half a dozen times. Never mind that as things stand today, the Pats would have home field in the AFC playoffs, and beating the Patriots at Gillette is next to impossible. Are the Patriots playing the best football in the AFC? No. But they remain the team to beat in that conference until someone beats them in the postseason.”
3rd - Dan Hanzus (NFL.com): Maybe Tom Brady isn’t trying to play the public with his comments that these Patriots are all about their defense and special teams. New England’s offense was timid once again on a cold and rainy late afternoon in Foxborough, held to under 300 yards while Brady was stuck in the dreaded Gabbert Zone (less than 6.0 yards per attempt) for the second straight week. But the Pats won again because the dysfunctional and undermanned Cowboys offense was no match for the Pats’ attacking defense. Stephon Gilmore’s stellar season continued with a lockdown performance against Amari Cooper, who was held without a catch for the first time in 20 games with Dallas. Gilmore added a diving interception, as well, then took to social media after the game to say there was “no debate” that he’s the game’s best cornerback. Hard to argue.
3rd - Peter Botte (NY Post): Since losing to Baltimore in Week 9, the defending champs have won the past two weeks using the recipe with which they defeated the Rams, 13-3, in Super Bowl LIII. The Pats have grinded out consecutive low-scoring victories over Philadelphia and Dallas by a combined 30-19. That clinched their NFL record 17th straight season with at least 10 wins entering Sunday night’s visit to No. 10 Houston.
3rd - MMQB Staff (SI): When was the last time Brady and Belichick lost a bad-weather game in Foxboro? It wasn’t going to happen–especially against Dallas, of all teams–and it was apparent after the first quarter the Cowboys couldn’t handle the conditions. Special teams (blocked punt that led to a TD) and defense (INT led to FG) again were the edge, and that seems to be the Patriot Way in 2019.
3rd - Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News): The Patriots are starting to win games the way they won the Super Bowl over the Rams. They frustrated the Eagles and Cowboys in back-to-back weeks with their clutch situational defense. Tom Brady has gone back to grinding mode and seems to be loving it more with the power running game being restored.
3rd - Doug Farrar (TouchdownWire): Coming into Dallas’ tussle with the Patriots on Sunday afternoon, Dak Prescott was the NFL’s most prolific quarterback against man coverage, with 70 completions in 111 attempts for 1,033 yards, nine touchdowns and two interceptions. Then, the Patriots showed Prescott the difference between enjoying ice cream and working in an ice cream factory. New England’s lockdown man coverage, especially when cornerback Stephon Gilmore was involved, was far too much for Prescott and his targets to handle. Amari Cooper, primarily Gilmore’s responsibility, was held without a catch for the first time as a Cowboy, and Prescott managed just 19 completions in 33 attempts for 212 yards, no touchdowns and one interception. The weather played a role — rain limited Tom Brady’s efficiency as well — but if you’re still discounting this secondary due to inferior opponents, Sunday’s performance should put a sock in that.
AVERAGE RANK: 2.2 (-0.1)