Tom Brady turned 40, and things have collapsed in New England. It’s not been with Brady, though, who has been off to a blistering start, throwing 8 touchdown passes in the first three games and averaging over 300 yards passing. He’s needed every bit of it, though, to get to 2-1, and the Patriots were a few seconds and one big play from losing at home to Houston.
That’s because the defense has been mostly awful, a year after they led the NFL in points allowed. Some of that was thanks to playing a very favorable schedule in 2016 when it came to opposing offenses and quarterbacks. But that doesn’t come close to explaining all of it. Injuries up front have left the front seven looking quite mortal. The New England Patriots are 1st in yards gained on offense and 32nd in yards allowed on defense.
So while they were the strong Super Bowl chalk, the defense is going to play much better to make that a reality. Teams as poor as New England have been defensively can make the playoffs when paired with a Hall of Fame QB, but they generally falter there.
Here’s a list of every team since 1978 to start 2-1 while allowing more than 30 points a game in the first three games (excluding the 1987 lockout season):
- Cincinnati, 2012, 102 points allowed: finished 10-6, lost in WC round;
- Green Bay, 2002, 100 points allowed: finished 12-4, lost in WC round;
- San Diego, 1985, 99 points allowed: finished 8-8, no playoffs;
- New England, 2017, 95 points allowed: ????;
- St. Louis, 2000, 94 points allowed: finished 10-6, lost in WC round;
- Indianapolis, 2001, 94 points allowed: finished 6-10, no playoffs;
- Detroit, 2007, 94 points allowed: finished 7-9, no playoffs;
- Houston, 1988, 94 points allowed: finished 10-6, lost Divisional round;
- Seattle, 1985, 94 points allowed: finished 8-8, no playoffs;
- Buffalo, 1989, 93 points allowed: finished 9-7, lost Divisional round;
- Atlanta, 2016, 91 points allowed: finished 11-5, lost Super Bowl.
That list includes teams quarterbacked by Brett Favre, Peyton Manning, Dan Fouts, Kurt Warner, Warren Moon, Jim Kelly, and last year’s MVP Matt Ryan. The Atlanta Falcons (who you might have heard blew a 28-3 lead) were the only ones to make it past the divisional round of the playoffs.