Here’s a look at the first half of the season for the New England Patriots and a preview of what to expect in the second half:
First-half snapshot: Quarterback Tom Brady said it best after the team improved to 6-2 heading into its bye: “We can definitely do a better job. There are high expectations for us. There has been a lot of great effort, but the execution hasn’t really matched that to this point. Hopefully our best football is ahead of us.” Grade: Above average.
Midseason MVP: Brady edges out running back James White (team-high 43 catches) and defensive end Trey Flowers (tied for team high with 3.5 sacks) in a vote that didn’t produce a slam-dunk winner. The offense has been struggling to score points over the past four games and Brady’s accuracy isn’t at its usual high level, but he’s still 206-of-309 for 2,541 yards with 16 touchdowns and two interceptions. Most quarterbacks would like to have that stat line.
Best moment: Brady leading the Patriots to a 36-33 victory over the Texans on Sept. 24, as the team was on the verge of dropping to 1-2 before “Brady Magic” saved the day. The Patriots trailed by five points when they took over at their 25-yard line with 2:24 remaining. The home crowd had booed earlier in the fourth quarter, but those chants quickly turned to “Brady! Brady! Brady!” as he capped off the comeback with a 25-yard touchdown pass to Brandin Cooks. “I’ve seen it before. He’s the best football player that has ever played the game,” Texans coach Bill O’Brien said.
Worst moment: When wide receiver Julian Edelman tore his right ACL in a preseason game Aug. 25 at Detroit, it instantly changed the outlook for the team’s offense. Then linebacker Dont’a Hightower tore his right pectoral muscle on Oct. 22 against the Falcons, joining Edelman on injured reserve. That’s a big leadership and production gap to fill.
Second-half outlook: The Patriots will play five road games in the first six weeks following the bye, leading off with visits to Denver and Mexico City (vs. the Raiders). Then after a home game, there are trips to Buffalo, Miami and Pittsburgh. The Patriots expect to have linebacker Shea McClellin coming off the injured reserve list, possibly as early as Nov. 12 against Denver, and that should help the front seven, which could use a boost. Offensively, if the team can’t solve its red zone woes, it threatens their Super Bowl hopes.