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3 reasons the Patriots are legitimate Super Bowl LVI contenders

patriots, mac jones, bill belichick, super bowl lvi

The New England Patriots were thought to be in rebuilding mode. After Tom Brady left for Tampa Bay last season, the Patriots went 7-9. That was their worst record since before Tom Brady had arrived in New England.

The Patriots drafted quarterback Mac Jones out of Alabama with the 15th overall pick. It was supposed to take some time for head coach Bill Belichick to get this team in contention in the AFC. The AFC East was supposed to be Buffalo’s for the taking.

However, after another dominant performance from the Patriots Sunday in a 45-7 blowout over the Cleveland Browns, a lot of people are looking over their shoulders at the Patriots and wondering if they are actually contenders already.

News flash; they are.  Here are three reasons why.

They are very physical up front and can outmuscle most teams. The Patriots acquired Pro Bowl offensive tackle Trent Brown during the offseason to help bolster the offensive line. They also acquired linebacker Matthew Judon to help defensively. Both have had a large impact so far this season.

The Patriots have rushed for over 140 yards in four straight games. Both RB Damien Harris and rookie running back Rhamondre Stevenson have excelled running the ball. Standout special teams player Brandon Bolden has also chipped in catching passes out of the backfield.

On the defensive side, Judon is tied for 4th in the NFL in sacks with 9.5. He, along with veteran LB Donta Hightower boast one of the better linebacker units in the league. The secondary is also vastly improved. J.C. Jackson has been playing at a Pro Bowl level, while Devin McCourty anchors the back end.

Don’t forget, two seasons ago the Patriots had one of the best defenses in the league. They had a number of starters opt out last season due to COVID. Those players are back this season.

So, I have established that they the talent and players needed to make some noise in the post season. But another factor that makes it possible this soon is the inconsistency in the AFC.

Currently, New England sits at 6-4 and is a half game behind the Buffalo Bills in the AFC East. These teams are yet to have played this season, with meetings Week 14 and 16. Clearly, the division is still up for grabs. At times, Buffalo has looked like the best team in football. Other times, their offense and Josh Allen have struggled.

Even if Buffalo wins the division, they have shown they are vulnerable to teams that can play them physical. Baltimore has been jekyll and hyde all season. Kansas City’s defense still leaves a lot to be desired. New England already roughed up Justin Herbert and the Chargers. That leaves Tennessee.

There is not much that can be said to knock the Titans. I just feel like I need to see them do something in the post season. I believe I am not alone in that sentiment.

That leaves the final and most important reason the New England Patriots are legit Super Bowl LVI contenders in the AFC; Bill Belichick.

Belichick’s ability to transform a team and make adjustments is undeniable. He is arguably the greatest coach in NFL history. He also has the innate ability to instill his football knowledge and principles on his quarterback. Take a look at rookie quarterback Mac Jones’ response when asked if he is allowed to change plays at the line of scrimmage.

Mac Jones is playing much better than any expected this early in his career. Jones is completing nearly 70% of his passes, and has been smarter with the football as the season has progressed. During the current four game win streak, Jones has thrown seven touchdown passes to one interception.

Coming out of college, the knock on Jones was that he didn’t have the strongest arm. People also didn’t know if he simply was a result of having some of the best talent around him in college football. After all, he was at Alabama. Perennially, they have some of the best running backs, wide receivers and defensive players in the sport.

But people forgot that that does not mean he wasn’t a reason for their success. His positive characteristics when the Patriots drafted him were that he has a quick release, is very smart and is accurate with the football. That mold fits quite well. Those are the same attributes of Tom Brady.

I am not crazy enough to say that Mac Jones is going to be the next Tom Brady. There is no next Tom Brady. But Mac Jones fits what they want to do offensively very well.

For all of these reasons, people need to start taking notice and taking the Patriots seriously. That is especially true for the Buffalo Bills, the one team that Belichick has owned during his tenure in New England.