The New England Patriots suffered more than just a loss Sunday night to the Houston Texans.
The defending Super Bowl champions' 28-22 defeat at NRG Stadium has allowed the Baltimore Ravens to claim the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoff race entering Week 14. Getting it back could prove quite difficult for New England over the last four games of the regular season.
Let's take a look at four instant overreactions from the Patriots' loss and assess their merit.
1. Patriots' offense is a very real problem
Verdict: Not an overreaction
There's a plethora of issues facing the Patriots on offense right now. Here's a quick list:
- WRs can't get open
- Brady's chemistry with the young WRs is not good
- Establishing the run game has been challenging all season
- Red zone offense
- 3rd down
- Lack of production from tight ends
The Patriots have scored an average of just 18 points per game over the last four weeks, and that's not going to beat many teams, especially when more than two thirds of the league averages 20-plus points per game.
Brady isn't blameless for this mess, either. He's completed just 54.8 percent of his passes for 1,017 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions over that four-game stretch.
New England's defense has played at an elite level most of the season, but it cannot be relied on to bail out the offense every time it plays a quality opponent. Adjustments need to be made ASAP to get this offense playoff-ready before January.
2. Patriots won't get the No. 1 seed back
Verdict: Not an overreaction
The Patriots and Ravens have identical 10-2 records entering Week 14, but Baltimore is the No. 1 seed because it owns the head-to-head tiebreaker. The Ravens' Week 9 win over the Patriots could ultimately be the difference in the race for the No. 1 seed because Baltimore has a softer remaining schedule than New England.
Here's a comparison:
--Patriots: Week 14 vs. Chiefs, Week 15 at Bengals, Week 16 vs. Bills, Week 17 vs. Dolphins
--Ravens: Week 14 at Bills, Week 15 vs. Jets, Week 16 at Browns, Week 17 vs. Steelers
The Patriots probably will need to win out and have the Ravens lose at least one game to regain the top seed. Maybe the Bills give the Ravens fits, but it's hard to see Baltimore losing another game in the regular season given their remaining schedule.
New England has to play a Kansas City Chiefs team in Week 14 that's coming off a dominant 40-9 win over the Oakland Raiders on Sunday. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is well-equipped to score against the Patriots' elite defense after putting up 71 points in a pair of losses in 2018. A Week 16 matchup versus the Bills won't be easy, either. Remember: the Bills barely lost to the Patriots 17-10 in Week 4.
The Patriots no longer control their own destiny in the AFC playoff race, and they need an unlikely slip up from the red-hot Ravens to have any chance at homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. Sunday night's snowstorm in New England provided a great reminder of why homefield is important to the Patriots. You'd rather face Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson in these conditions:
Meanwhile here’s a Foxboro snow update. pic.twitter.com/bzP4mNHZRU— Mike Dussault (@MikeDussault19) December 2, 2019
3. The Texans exposed the Pats' pass D
The Texans had four passing touchdowns Sunday, matching the number the Patriots had allowed through their first 11 games. It was a great performance by Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, who also tallied a touchdown reception, but it's only one game. New England's pass defense entered Week 13 giving up the second-fewest passing yards per game, along with the best opposing QB rating. The Patriots defense still leads the league with 20 interception (six more than the next-best team) and a league-low eight passing touchdowns allowed. Veteran cornerback Stephon Gilmore is the leading candidate for Defensive Player of the Year, and the secondary is loaded with exceptional talent, depth and experience. If Mahomes shreds the Patriots secondary next week, the concerns will be valid. But right now, New England's pass defense remains the league's top unit.
4. Texans are a legit AFC contender
The Texans played exceptionally well Sunday night and deserve a lot of credit for beating the Patriots in the manner they did. But let's not get carried away. Houston's only impressive win before Week 13 was a road victory over the Chiefs. This is the same Texans team that has one playoff win over the last six seasons. Houston is still only one game up on the Tennessee Titans for the AFC South lead, and those two division rivals still have two head-to-head matchups remaining.
We need to see Watson lead the Texans to at least the AFC Divisional Round before we view Houston as a serious contender to win the conference.
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