Most fans believe the Dallas Cowboys are the best team in the NFL. That’s understandable considering their 12-2 mark and the fact that they already clinched a playoff berth in the tough NFC. However, that doesn’t make them the biggest candidate to win the Super Bowl LI.
That honor belongs to the New England Patriots. The Pats have an identical 12-2 record but they’ve looked much better throughout the season. And they accomplished this without Tom Brady for four games and without Rob Gronkowski out for the year. The numbers also support the idea of them being the best team in the league.
Offensively everything starts with Brady. Even though the veteran has played only 10 games, he has 3,064 yards, 22 TDs to two interceptions, and a stellar 109,7 passer rating. He’s cemented his place as an MVP candidate, and led New England to an eighth consecutive AFC East title and 13th in the past 14 years.
Brady doesn’t have Gronkowski, but the rest of the receivers have stepped their game up. Danny Amendola has struggled with injuries, but Julian Edelman (85-866-2) proved he’s a reliable number-one wideout. Chris Hogan (33-631-4) has excelled as a deep threat. Martellus Bennett (50-649-5) has been an effective insurance policy to Gronk. And Malcolm Mitchell has been very good as a rookie with 29 receptions, 372 yards and four TDs.
Brady’s biggest help, however, has been the running game. LeGarrette Blount in enjoying a career year with 1,060 yards and also broke the Patriots’ franchise record for most rushing TDs in a season with 15. James White and Dion Lewis have offered a change of pace, and both can be threats in the passing game as well. There’s no such thing as too much balance on offense, and the Patriots certainly prove that.
Defensively New England isn’t as good as on the other side of the ball. But they have still generated nine interceptions and 32 sacks in the season. They rank 10th in yards per game allowed (336.0) and led the NFL in points per game allowed with only 16.6. It’s not a secret that having a good offense and a stout defense is a recipe for success.
Bill Belichick knows how to maximize the resources at his disposal. And he’s shown once again he has enough tools to carry the Patriots to a Super Bowl. Just like he did in 2014 when they beat the Seattle Seahawks.