Patriots

Patriots have been unusually cold on third downs in recent weeks

Patriots have been unusually cold on third downs in recent weeks

The New England Patriots offense hasn't been quite as sharp in 2019 as it has been in recent seasons. There are quite a few reasons for this. The offensive line is banged-up, the receiving corps is lacking weapons, and the run game hasn't been able to get going.

These problems have definitely played a role in the Patriots offense sputtering, but one underrated area that the team has been struggling in is converting third downs.

On the surface, it doesn't appear that they've been having many issues with this. After all, their percentage of conversions has come close to matching their pace from the past two seasons. Just take a look at the data:

Year Conversions/Attempts Percent
2019 52/131 39.7
2018 82/201 40.8
2017 82/202 40.6

But a deeper dive shows that in recent weeks, the Patriots' third-down conversion percentage has been poor.

According to the "Boston Sports Info" Twitter account, the Patriots have converted just 13 of their last 41 third-down attempts (31.7 percent conversion rate) dating back to their game against the Jets. In that contest, they converted their first four third downs before their struggles began.

If the Patriots can't rectify this issue against the stronger teams and defenses that they will be facing in the next four weeks, this could quickly become a major problem for them. As it stands, their offense has had trouble moving the ball. If third downs continue to be a problem, then the unit's struggles will only intensify.

We'll see if the Patriots were able to improve upon their third-down game plan during the bye week in their game against the Philadelphia Eagles. The game kicks off at 4:25 p.m. ET but you can catch pregame coverage on NBC Sports Boston and the MyTeams app starting at 1 p.m. ET.

Tom E. Curran previews Patriots-Eagles in NFL Week 11>>>

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Report: Julian Edelman, Ted Karras make trip with Patriots, Cowart out for Bengals game

Report: Julian Edelman, Ted Karras make trip with Patriots, Cowart out for Bengals game

Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman and center Ted Karras, who were each listed as questionable with injuries, made the trip to Cincinnati with the team Saturday but backup defensive tackle Byron Cowart was downgraded to out with a concussion, according to ESPN's Mike Reiss.

Edelman, the team's leading receiver, has been battling shoulder and ankle injuries. Karras, the starting center, missed the loss to the Kansas City Chiefs last Sunday with a knee injury. Both were limited in practice this week. 

The Patriots (10-3), coming off back-to-back losses to the Houston Texans and Chiefs, play the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday at 1 p.m.

Patriots-Bengals Preview from Tom E. Curran: No cinch in Cincy

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AP Images

Patriots-Bengals Preview from Tom E. Curran: No cinch in Cincy

Here we have two teams at opposite ends of the food chain. The 10-3 Patriots and the 1-12 Bengals. Unfortunately, they have one thing in common. Neither one scores much. The Bengals high for the season is 23 points and that was in Week 4. They’ve only scored more than 20 points twice. 

The Patriots have scored fewer than three offensive touchdowns in five out of six games and the lone game they scored three – in Houston – two came in the very late stages after falling behind 21-3. So this game has the potential to look like a Patriots-Bengals from the not-so-distant past. Not the “On to Cincinnati” game people remember from 2014, but the ugly slog in the rain a year earlier when the Patriots lost 13-6 at Cincy. 

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So many elements are the same now for the Patriots offense – limited talent at wideout and a lack of protection up front. 

Because of the Patriots' offensive struggles, what seemed for months like a simple walkover has the potential to be uncomfortably competitive.