OPINION: Can Brady and the Patriots continue their dominance in December?
Tom Brady was named the AFC player of the month for a record 10th time in his career. The offensive player of the month put on an amazing display of accuracy and production in November. The 40-year-old quarterback also led the Patriots to a 3-0 record defeating the Broncos, Raiders, and Dolphins in resounding fashion.
New England fans certainly enjoyed team highlights for the month of November, Brady scored 10 touchdowns to only one interception, tallying 833-yards while completing 73 of 99 passes for a completion average of 73.7 as he led the Patriots to a perfect month in the win column.
Let’s have a look at some of the key issues that may hinder the team down the stretch:
The offensive line has been dealing with injuries to starting right tackle Marcus Cannon, who missed the last three games with ankle issues, as well as center David Andrews who has been out for two weeks due to an illness but has returned to practice according to reports.
Wide receiver Chris Hogan is another missing piece to the offense, his presence will be needed for the Patriots during the playoffs as another weapon in the route scheme for Brady. Hogan caught five touchdowns on 33 receptions before sustaining an injury in week 8.
Adding to that is a defense dealing with injuries to key cogs in the system. Coach Bill Belichick has definitely worked his magic on the defensive end since mid-season; resulting in a streak of seven games where the defense has only allowed 13.1 points per game. Kyle Van Noy was the latest game changer to fall to injury, his exceptional play over the last seven games has given positive results, to say the least.
The Patriots will face one team that could test their mettle, the Pittsburgh Steelers share the same (9-2) record. The game will offer a few answers on New England’s defense, the Steelers have one of the more explosive offenses in the NFL, ranked 5th for passing yards at 262.9 per game and 7th for total yards at 367 per game.
But if history is any indicator, Brady will put up enough points on the board and dominate the time of possession which will keep Ben Roethlisberger and his offense on the sideline watching. The Patriots are (10-2) against the Steelers since Brady has been playing.
The rest of the games slated for December are two meetings with the Buffalo Bills, a game at the Miami Dolphins and a regular season clincher against the New York Jets. These teams could offer some resistance but New England should be able to defeat them barring any catastrophic injuries.
All in all, the Patriots success during the last five games will come down to the offensive line protecting Brady, keeping him upright while giving him time to distribute the ball to the major contributors on offense. The return of key players on offense and defense is imperative for the team to sustain success late in the season as they attempt to clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
PREDICTION: Brady continues his MVP caliber season and leads the team to a 4-1 record in December; losing the season closer to the Jets.