Pro Football Focus

Pro Football Focus ranks Patriots defense 'far and away' the best in the NFL

Pro Football Focus ranks Patriots defense 'far and away' the best in the NFL

It's safe to say that probably the only reason the Patriots are 6-0 heading into a Monday Night Football showdown with the Jets is their defense. 

With its continuity, smart players that give the coaching staff an ability to adjust on the fly and supreme talent in the secondary, the New England defense has stifled every opponent it has gone up against. 

Of course, the fact that the Patriots have gone up against a group of quarterbacks consisting of Luke Falk, Colt McCoy, Daniel Jones and Ryan Fitzpatrick, but you can only play the teams on your schedule. And the Pats have slowed down their opponent's offenses at a historic rate. So much so, that Pro Football Focus ranked them the NFL's top defense by a wide margin. 

The Patriots have been far and away the best defense in the NFL this season, registering an EPA allowed per play of nearly -0.5. Their defensive success can largely be attributed to their secondary, which has been playing outstanding football, granted against some of the most advantageous quarterback matchups a team could possibly have. They are the only team to allow fewer than six yards per targeted attempt (5.8), the only team to allow a passer rating below 65.0 on targeted passes (46.1), and their 14 interceptions are five more than any other team. It will be interesting to see them compete with a competent passing attack, but they have all the makings of a dominant secondary and defense overall.

With their next four games coming against Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield, Lamar Jackson and Carson Wentz, the Patriots defense will finally be appropriately put to the test. 

With Tom Brady's offense continued struggles to move the ball, New England's defense might have to play better than they have already, which might just be too much to ask. 

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Pro Football Focus ranks Tom Brady the top quarterback in the NFL heading into 2019

Pro Football Focus ranks Tom Brady the top quarterback in the NFL heading into 2019

At the young age of 42, Tom Brady earned the top spot on Pro Football Focus' quarterback rankings heading into the 2019 season. 

Steve Palazzolo, PFF's senior analyst, broke up every starting quarterback into four tiers, putting Brady with just Drew Brees and Pat Mahomes in Tier 1. Brees and Brady have been in the NFL for a combined 37 seasons and have both thrown for over 70,000 yards and 500 touchdowns, so the fact that they're still playing at an elite level is a testament to their greatness. 

Here's what Palazzolo had to say on Brady entering his sixth Super Bowl defense:

Tom Brady took a bit of a step back last year, but his three-year grade is the highest in the NFL by wide margin as is his five-year grade and his last 10-year grade, so Brady has been the best in the NFL over the last decade.

Brady had a down year to his standards in 2018, where he threw for 4,355 yards, 29 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, which was his highest total of picks since 2013. The Patriots leaned on the running game to set up play-action without significant receiving threats on the outside, but with the additions of Demaryius Thomas, Josh Gordon and N'Keal Harry, Brady has a better chance to have a bounce-back year statistically. 

After Tier 1, which Had Brady, Brees and Mahomes ranked in that order, Tier 2 consisted of six quarterbacks. 

TIER 1

Brady
Brees
 
Mahomes

TIER 2

Aaron Rodgers
Russell Wilson

Matt Ryan
Ben Roethlisberger

Phillip Rivers
Baker Mayfield

Rodgers probably belongs in the top tier, but after two years where he missed the playoffs in Green Bay, he'll probably have to prove himself to get back in Brady and Brees' territory. 

The last two tiers were headlined by young quarterbacks who have yet to launch themselves into elite company. Tier 3 is led by Carson Wentz, Deshaun Watson and Jared Goff, while Tier 4 featured Kyler Murray, Nick Foles and Sam Darnold. 

We'll see how different these rankings look once the season ends, but you can probably bank on Brady staying in the top tier until he decides to retire. 

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Yet another stat to show Tom Brady's prolonged dominance

Yet another stat to show Tom Brady's prolonged dominance

Entering his age-42 season, Tom Brady is attempting to accomplish a feat himself that no other franchise has accomplished. Win seven Super Bowl championships. 

The Patriots dynasty has spanned almost 20 years, and Brady has been a dominant force in the league basically the entire time. What's probably the most devastating part about playing Brady and the Patriots is that no matter the roster, no matter who they're playing against, they figure out a way to efficiently pick you apart. 

Perhaps nothing encaptures that fact more than a stat Pro Football Focus shared on the league's leaders in "Elite graded games" since 2006. 

PFF classifies an "Elite" game if a quarterback has a 90.0 rating or higher in their grading system. Brady leads all quarterbacks since 2006 with 29 of them, followed by Drew Brees (27), Matt Ryan (18), Aaron Rodgers (17) and Peyton Manning (16). 

Brady is a PFF darling, grading out exceptionally well in their third-down, big-time throw rankings and is considered a PFF Hall of Famer if he retired right now. Devin McCourty is the only other Patriot considered to be on pace for such an honor. 

Brady figures to have at least a few more elite-graded games this season, especially with an improved running game and continued stability along the offensive line. Rob Gronkowski has retired, but the Patriots have upgraded their outside receiving threats that should open up the middle of the field for Julian Edelman and James White. 

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