Patriots are favorites in AFC going forward

New England Patriots

The New England Patriots dismantled the Indianapolis Colts on Thursday Night Football, 38-24, confirming that they are once again the team to beat in the AFC.

Julian Edelman made his return to the New England Patriots lineup in Week 5 following a four-game suspension, and the results were as expected. Though Edelman committed an uncharacteristic drop on third down and had just 57 receiving yards, he converted seven of his nine targets into receptions, opening up the offense for Tom Brady.

New England was never at risk of losing this game, so while the Indianapolis Colts “only” lost by 14 in this 38-24 contest, the fact of the matter is that the Patriots were always in control. Furthermore, Brady’s two interceptions came off of drops by his receivers, meaning that the Colts had luck on their side against the elite quarterback.

Even with the miscues, Brady was still at his surgical best, completing 34 of 44 pass attempts for 341 yards and 7.8 yards per attempt. Following a blip on the radar against the Detroit Lions in Week 3 and a disappointing loss to Blake Bortles and the Jacksonville Jaguars in the previous week, the Patriots have played lights-out football against the Miami Dolphins and Colts.

Brady has been impressive, but that’s the expectation. What’s been more important to the Patriots success is the emergence of the running game. Rookie Sony Michel’s struggles against Detroit are a thing of the past, seeing as how he’s owned the Dolphins and Colts defenses on the ground in back-to-back weeks.

Michel finds holes in the defense with ease, and he turned 18 carries into 98 yards and a touchdown. An efficient ball-carrier who has all the tools to be one of the league’s better backs, Michel gives the Patriots star power in the backfield. The Pats are historically at their most dangerous with a true feature back, and Michel is comparable to any rusher this team has had during the “Brady era”. He is as advertised.

The Pats will get Josh Gordon more involved in the offense, particularly if Chris Hogan continues to have a letdown season in 2018. Gordon only hauled in two passes and took a backseat to Edelman, James White, and Rob Gronkowski in the passing game, but he showed why he is the team’s most dangerous weapon with a jaw-dropping 34-yard touchdown. Gordon just owns defensive backs with his combination of size and strength, and his score was a taste of what could develop over the course of the season as his chemistry with Brady grows.

Defensively, the Patriots are active, and they can come up with timely plays from guys like Stephon Gilmore or Patrick Chung. They have depth and playmaking ability in the back seven, and that’s always crucial. As long as the defense can avoid huge mistakes and come up with turnovers, they can be a strength in supporting a multi-faceted offense that can attack any weakness a defense presents.

New England is used to being the class of the AFC, and the 2018 season is no exception. Once again, reports of the Patriots impending demise were too early, as their woes against Detroit and Jacksonville have been rendered meaningless. The Colts don’t exactly represent the stiffest competition that the AFC have to offer, but this is a positive follow-up to the Patriots blowout win over Miami in Week 4.

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The Jaguars, Chiefs, and Bengals have looked good so far, but the 3-2 Patriots are undefeated at home and just starting to hit that second gear with Edelman back, Gordon in the fold, and Michel breaking out. Scary offensive output is on the horizon for the Patriots, and the rest of the AFC has been put on notice for yet another season running.

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