Seven games in, the New England Patriots should be atop the AFC standings

Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots celebrates with Hunter Henry #85 (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots celebrates with Hunter Henry #85 (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

The New England Patriots should be atop the AFC standings right now and well on their way to a playoff spot or more. The standings are out and it’s a darn shame.

Right now the Patriots are at slot number nine in the AFC playoff race. Only seven teams will make the playoffs. And it’s seriously aggravating to think where they could be/should be now.

Yes, folks, they should be right at the top of the AFC standings along with the Cincinnati Bengals, Las Vegas Raiders, and Tennessee Titans. Or, get this, maybe even alone at the top. How’s that?

Why the New England Patriots are not atop the AFC standings

The New England Patriots have been their own worst enemies so far in 2021. They have on at least three occasions shot themselves in the foot and snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

This team, as flawed as they have been on defense (and it’s getting worse with a lousy trade [Stephon Gilmore] and injuries), could still be riding high and back where they belong at or near the top of the AFC.

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The Patriots out-and-out blew two games that should have been in the bag. That would be their Week 1 contest against the Miami Dolphins, where a late fumble sunk them, and their Week 6 matchup against the Dallas Cowboys, where one late stop by their defense wins that game.

A third against the best in the business, the defending Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was also there for the taking. Unfortunately, they didn’t cash in.

Change even the two games they out-and-out gave away and they are tied record-wise for the AFC lead. That’s even with a totally underperforming defense and a rookie quarterback, the sensational Mac Jones.

New England Patriots’ poor offensive line decisions cost them dearly

That brief analysis doesn’t even include the fact that some completely senseless coaching/personnel decisions with the offensive line after the first quarter of the first game could have (and very nearly did) wreck the entire season.

That would be when Trent Brown was injured, setting off a cascade of poor attempts to patch up that gaping hole at right tackle.

Head coach Bill Belichick implemented a revolving door of awful right tackles, e.g. Justin Herron and Yasir Durant, and the result was predictable. Mac Jones, his prized asset, got pummeled.

How did Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels not come to the realization that was staring them in the face all along?

The obvious choice should have been to immediately insert Michael Onwenu into the right tackle spot and put Ted Karras in the lineup.

That was finally implemented in the second half of the Dallas game. The Patriots then rallied to score 15 fourth-quarter points. Amazing what a clean pocket can do for a quarterback and an offense.

Think that’s an oversimplification? Think again. Since moving Onwenu to right tackle and getting Karras involved in that second half against Dallas, in six quarters the team has scored 69 points and the offense has rolled. It just flat-out works.

In fact, they had Dallas beaten absent the lack of one defensive stop out of two big plays in the fourth quarter. They didn’t get one and it cost them the game.

So let’s get this straight; the solution to the offensive line problem after Brown’s injury was right in front of the coach’s faces and they couldn’t recognize it?

It’s even worse when you factor in that Ted Karras was re-signed as a free agent for just such an eventuality after starting 16 games for the Miami Dolphins last season. The man can flat-outplay.

Someone, please explain why he sat. This truly incomprehensible lack of personnel management acumen, coaching smarts, whatever it was, cost them games.

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Why is that? Again, it’s not rocket science, give Mac Jones time to pass and he will carve up most teams’ defenses.

Even with a sub-standard Isaiah Wynn at left tackle against the Jets on Sunday, the offense still rolled.

It says here once again, if/when Brown comes back into the lineup, he should go to left tackle and Wynn somewhere else, but not right tackle. That’s your best option, period. Hope they get it.