I've always said you really can't judge a team until week six or so. Last week, when someone started a thread comparing the 2011 Pats team to the 2007 team, I responded by asking that we not all get carried away in week five and quoted Parcell's words: "You are what you are." I took some flack for that, as several posters tried to tell me we were really better than our record indicated. "Closer to 5-0," some said.
Well, Parcells was right. You are what you are and in this case it is 3-3--which is not close to 5-0 and certainly not close to 6-0.
I remain very optimistic about this team. I also look around the league and have trouble identifying a team I'm convinced is elite, which means this season is going to be a dogfight and anyone can end up on top. We're 3-3, but so is every other team in the AFC East. They are what they are too. It's not clear yet which team is going to be best. But I think we've got a good chance of coming out on top.
As far as the week six assessment goes, here are my thoughts:
Offense. The increased emphasis on the run has paid off against defenses that focus on the pass, using smaller, quicker defenders. Against teams that can keep a big front seven in the game (while still controlling our pass offense), the run isn't a big help (it may even reducing our scoring ability as it did with Arizona). Our passing game resembles last year's, except Lloyd (hope he's not hurt too badly) adds a much better perimeter threat. The TEs are less productive, in part because we are using them more as run and pass blockers, though they remain effective in the passing game. Fells is a nice addition to that squad. Overall, this remains a top 5 offense, and one we should be able to win with.
Defense. Great against the run (much better than last year), as long as we can keep our base front seven in the game and focused forward. If we try to focus our LBs on pass defense (or go nickel), the run may open up for our opponents. The pass rush is improved, I think, though still not stellar. Jones is a great addition and Nink has shown real improvement over the past few games. Spikes has also been effective blitzing up the middle when they've done that. Overall, there is improvement. Pass coverage, though, remains a glaring problem. Our LBs aren't the best in pass coverage, our safeties are hopeless, and our corners inconsistent (McCourty) or just weak (everyone else). Because we are prone to giving up so many big pass plays, we need to get turnovers. We are good at that, but still, the big pass plays are very hard to overcome.
Special Teams. As usual, very good kick and punt coverage, very weak kick and punt return game. Some inconsistency on field goals. Overall, not a real strength, though the coverage units do help our defense by limiting starting field position. It's just that the big pass plays the defense gives up tend to squander that advantage.
Overall. A team that can't reliably win a defensive struggle. As with last year, the offense has to be great every game because if they falter at all, we can't expect the defense to hold a lead in a tight game.
Projection. Still think we'll win the division. Less confident we can get a first round bye or secure homefield advantage for more than one game. If we don't win the division, making the playoffs may be difficult since with three losses already, we may not end up with a record good enough to win a wildcard. Our saving grace may be that every other AFC team is struggling too. There's no clear class of the league. Unfortunately, the loss to Baltimore could come back to bite us.