October has been a tumultuous month for the New England Patriots so far. The team had its first Coronavirus cases — including starters Cam Newton and Stephon Gilmore — and saw two of its games get postponed because of the outbreak. Furthermore, the Patriots were able to practice just twice in a two-week span heading into a 18-12 loss against the Denver Broncos last Sunday.
While the circumstances did the club no favors against the Broncos, New England still put forward a disappointing performance especially on the offensive side of the ball: quarterback Cam Newton struggled behind a makeshift offensive line, the unit turned the football over three times, all while the team failed to get any consistent contributions from its skill position players at wide receiver, running back and tight end.
With that game in the rear-view mirror and a challenging meeting with the reigning NFC champions on the horizon, one question has to be asked: Is it time to worry about the Patriots? The impulse to ask a question like this comparatively early in the season is based on the latest numbers from SB Nation’s weekly Reacts survey.
According to the survey, only 58 percent of participating Patriots fans are still feeling good about the direction of the team — a sharp decrease from last week’s 91 percent, and the second biggest behind the Houston Texans’ 36-point drop (from 71 percent to this week’s 35 percent). The number is the lowest since free agency’s 50 percent approval rating and has New England ranked 21st in the league, tied with the 1-5 Atlanta Falcons.
So, is it time to worry about the team as the numbers suggest? Not necessarily, despite back-to-back losses and a 2-3 record.
After all, the circumstances mentioned above have to be put into consideration as well. They are not an excuse for the performance against Denver, but rather additional contextualization necessary to properly evaluate the game. With a regular practice rhythm back in place, the Patriots should be able to get more consistent and competitive again. What also should help is the return of core personnel such as center David Andrews and guard Shaq Mason, who both missed the last two games.
While the team still has to prove that it can fight against the current adversity, the starting point to do so is placed a lot better than it was at any point so far this month.
If you are interested in participating in our NFL Reacts survey, please sign up here!