By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Tom Brady is feeling some feelings. Perhaps you’ve heard.
It’s the lead story when discussing the 9-1 Patriots, as they trudge along on their way to another ho-hum season with either a 14-2 or (heavens forbid) a 13-3 record. Tom Brady? He’s feeling some feelings, folks.
The Boston Globe is all over it. And the Herald. And the radio. And the TV. And … wait this can’t be right … CBS Boston. (Aw, man!) Everyone’s on the big story: Tom Brady is not extraordinarily thrilled about being the engineer driving the train for an offense that ranks 16th in the NFL in yards, 24th in rushing yards, 30th in rushing yards per attempt, 18th in yards per passing attempt, 17th in third-down conversions, 25th in red zone offense, and 21st in goal-to-go offense.
Can you believe it? What’s he so sad about?!
Despite the fact that the roots of Brady’s frustrations are easily discernible, the analysis of Brady’s emotional imbalance continue to dominate our “football” discussions here. Combine that with the absolutely dreadful, unrelenting, permanently gray, cold, windy, and wet weather that we’re getting, and it makes for a nice bowl of Fun Soup.
Whether you revel in this conversation, or whether you despise it, I’m here to deliver some news to you: It’s almost certain to live on for another 12 days.
That has less to do with the Patriots themselves and more to do with the Dallas Cowboys team that’s coming to Foxboro on Sunday.
Now, before we proceed, we should start with this: It would surprise absolutely nobody if Jason Garrett arrived at Gillette Stadium and was promptly and thoroughly outcoached by his counterpart, Bill Belichick. As is the case whenever a … shall we say, uninspiring head coach arrives in Foxboro, a blowout in favor of the home team is always a distinct possibility.
But just by playing the numbers, it seems like a safe assessment to expect another grind for the Patriots’ offense this coming Sunday.
When the Cowboys visit New England, they’ll be bringing a defense that ranks seventh in the NFL in passing yards allowed, tied for fifth in the NFL in yards allowed per pass attempt, and tied for seventh for fewest touchdown passes allowed. There are some vulnerabilities to be found — the Cowboys rank in the middle of the pack in opponents’ passer rating and sacks, and their four interceptions have them tied for the second-fewest in the league. The Dallas defense also very notably got shredded by Sam Darnold (338 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT, 113.8 rating) in a Week 6 loss in New Jersey, so another AFC East road flop is not out of the question for Rod Marinelli’s defense.
Since then, though, the Cowboys’ defense has resisted any further breakdowns. They’ve held the quartet of Carson Wentz, Daniel Jones, Kirk Cousins and Jeff Driskel to 207 passing yards per game. Like the Patriots, Dallas held Philadelphia to just 10 points.
Dallas’ biggest defensive lapse since the Darnold disaster came against Minnesota, when Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison combined for 149 yards on 34 carries to help the Vikings to a 28-24 victory. Kyle Rudolph also caught two touchdowns in that game.
Yet considering that the Patriots currently have no running game to speak of, and considering the Patriots have precisely one touchdown pass caught by a tight end through 10 games this season, it does not seem as though Josh McDaniels, Bill Belichick and Tom “Feelings” Brady will be able to emulate that game plan come Sunday.
The gross mismatch on the sideline between Garrett and Belichick should be enough for the home team to secure victory No. 10 for the year. But it won’t come easy, and an upset is not at all out of the cards.
So, if the Patriots do roll their way to another grind-it-out, 17-14 type of victory, you can expect another bummed-out Brady press conference, and another week of getting walloped over the head with everybody talking about Brady’s fffffffffffffffffffffffffeelings.
But! There is light at the end of the tunnel, for after the game against the Cowboys, some space should open up for the Patriots’ passing game.
In Week 13, the Patriots travel to Houston. The Texans will be taking one of the NFL’s very worst pass defenses into that game. They currently rank 29th in passing yards allowed per game and 22nd in passing yards allowed per attempt. They’re tied for allowing the fifth-most touchdown passes (22), and they’re tied for having the fourth-fewest interceptions (5). Opposing passers have a 102.6 passer rating against them, the eighth-highest mark in the league. Houston ranks 30th in interception rate and 26th in sack rate, and they’ve also lost J.J. Watt.
Patriots followers who are still sore about the shellacking handed to New England by Lamar Jackson and the Ravens should note how much worse the Texans fared against that same Ravens team just this past Sunday.
Ravens vs. Patriots:
37 points (7 scored by defense)
372 yards total yards
163 passing yards
210 rushing yards
107.7 passer rating
Ravens vs. Texans:
491 total yards
222 passing yards
263 rushing yards
139.2 passer rating
After facing the Texans, the Patriots will host the Chiefs who rank 26th in yards allowed and 20th in points allowed. Though the Patriots’ run game has struggled mightily, even New England will be able to run all over the 30th-ranked rushing defense in the NFL. And though some key players have changed for both teams, it remains relevant that Brady threw for 688 yards in his two meetings with Kansas City last season.
New England then travels to Cincinnati to take on the tanking Bengals, who are 0-10 and boast the league’s very-worst defense in terms of yards allowed and fifth-worst scoring defense. They are the worst team in football, bar none.
And though the Bills will be bringing a hefty defense to New England on a Saturday afternoon in Week 16, the Patriots will close out their regular-season slate with a playoff tune-up against the minor league Miami Dolphins. Brady had a crisp 124.7 passer rating against the Dolphins in Week 2, and that was with Minkah Fitzpatrick and Xavien Howard in Miami’s defensive backfield.
By the end of the six-week stretch, Brady is likely to be feeling slightly better about his offense. That much seems to be a near-certainty.
Almost as certain: Tom Brady is going to be bummed out for another whole week. That means that a whole lot of folks in the region are going to get moody and cantankerous as they lambaste Brady for being … moody and cantankerous.
Should be fun.