The New England Patriots’ rushing attack was outstanding on Sunday against the Miami Dolphins: led by dual threat quarterback Cam Newton, the team gained a league-high 217 yards on the ground in Week 1 while finding the end zone three times. While the ball carriers themselves deserve recognition, so do the blockers up front.
The most impressive of them, at least according to website Pro Football Focus, was right guard Shaq Mason: the sixth-year man earned a 89.2 grade and proved himself as powerful a blocker as usual — something that was not always the case last year. His performance did not just help the Patriots open the season 1-0, it also earned him Team of the Week honors from PFF.
In general, the advanced analytics website is feeling pretty good about the Patriots and also called them AFC East favorites for now:
9. CAM LOOKED SHARP. HE MAKES THE PATRIOTS AFC EAST FAVORITES…FOR NOW
The Patriots offense produced positive EPA on 59% of their offensive plays on Sunday, which, as of now, ranks second in the NFL. Cam Newton saw 14 designed carries on the day (four more than any other quarterback) and recorded a first down or touchdown on half of those.
Newton hardly threw it downfield (just four passes traveled 10 or more yards, lowest in NFL), but he hit all the throws he needed to — not one of Newton’s 19 passes was deemed uncatchable, according to PFF’s ball-charting process.
I’m not saying the Patriots are runaway favorites by any means, but given what we saw at quarterback from the Jets, Dolphins and Bills, I would lean with New England when it comes to picking the AFC East.
Opening week is always a time for overreaction, but it cannot be denied that the Patriots’ Newton-led offense and stout defense played some solid football against an emerging opponent. It may not have been perfect, but it was a promising start nevertheless.