That’s a pretty spot-on word to describe the state of the 2019 New England Patriots as they enter the December stretch run. Despite a deceiving 10-2 record, this team is as vulnerable right now as it has ever been under Bill Belichick’s tutelage. The Patriots are spending the week reeling from their second crushing defeat of the season — a 28-22 loss to the Houston Texans in a game that was never really as close as the final score indicates.
If you’re a fan of the Kansas City Chiefs — the team that will be rolling into Foxboro this Sunday for a 2:25 p.m. kickoff at Gillette Stadium — you’ve got the Patriots right where you want them.
I can guarantee you, no Kansas City fan has forgotten what happened at Arrowhead Stadium back in January, when the Patriots prevailed over the Chiefs in what was a truly incredible, wild, and phenomenal AFC Championship Game. Following a back-and-forth shootout for 60 minutes, New England won the overtime coin toss, Tom Brady promptly led the Patriots down the field, and Rex Burkhead powered into the end zone to send the Pats to their fourth Super Bowl in five years.
Every Chiefs fan was incredulous, and also furious, at the fact that flame-throwing quarterback Patrick Mahomes never even got a chance to possess the ball in overtime. But hey, that’s how the rules are written. Sometimes you benefit from it and sometimes you don’t.
But this weekend at Gillette Stadium is their chance for revenge. The Patriots seem to be in a position where, if the Chiefs bring their A-game, they could really get kicked around.
New England raced off to an 8-0 start this season thanks to a cupcake schedule. Their first big test came against Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens, the best team in football right now, and they got punched right in the mouth. After two less-than-convincing wins against the Eagles and Cowboys (two teams that don’t belong in the playoffs, but one of them will somehow get to host a playoff game), the Patriots got put in their place once again by the Texans under the bright lights of Sunday Night Football.
Why? Because their offense is down in the dumps. They can’t run the ball (after a stellar rookie season, Sony Michel and forward progress have been complete strangers in 2019). Their receivers are unreliable. Unfortunately, Julian Edelman can’t do everything himself.
Following Rob Gronkowski’s retirement, the team’s best tight end is a 39-year-old who came out of retirement.
New England still has the greatest quarterback of all time in Brady, but at 42 years old, things seem to be different. Brady at his peak would be making this measly supporting cast look like Pro Bowlers. If he were a few years younger, the Patriots could ride to Miami in February on Brady’s arm alone. But at 42 (there are multiple head coaches in the league younger than Brady), he can’t be expected to carry the entire team on his shoulders. It just not feasible.
The defense has been the highlight of this season, but it can only do so much against offensive power houses like Baltimore and Kansas City. Those two teams possess the two most explosive quarterbacks in the game, and they are capable of carving this unit up. We already saw Jackson do it once this year. Now it’s time for Mahomes to take his turn.
One silver lining for the Patriots is that Mahomes hasn’t quite been 100 percent healthy all season. He’s dealt with ankle issues and knee issues, and while he still has been very good this year, he hasn’t been quite the same player that threw 50 touchdowns en route to winning the MVP award last season.
But it might not matter if the Patriots struggle once again to put points on the board. Even though they tend to always have magic hidden up their sleeve when they play at home, the Pats are stumbling and bumbling like we haven’t seen in a long time. They are at the point in the season where they typically have the division all but wrapped up, and yet the surprising Buffalo Bills are right on their tails at 9-3.
The Patriots have already lost to the teams that will most likely win the AFC North and AFC South. Now they’ll get a chance to try and right the ship against the team that should win the AFC West.
If you’re a Chiefs fan, don’t automatically assume that you’ve already got this game in the bag. It’s never a good idea to write off Belichick and Brady, especially when they are playing at home. But we know you’ve been dying to hand the Patriots an ass-beating ever since losing the AFC title game.
This weekend might be as good a chance as you’ll ever get to do just that.