The New England Patriots are, by far, the most successful franchise in the NFL right now. Why is that? There are certainly obvious reasons for it (such as having a Super Bowl-experienced quarterback). But winning in today’s NFL is so complicated and difficult, there have to be factors that have gone unnoticed. One piece online argued recently that the Patriots’ secret sauce is in large part to one component of their team that doesn’t get a lot of attention.
The Patriots have the best running attack in the league
According to USA Today’s PatriotsWire, the New England Patriots have the deepest group of running backs in the NFL. The case they make includes:
- Unlike some teams that have at least two solid running backs at most, the Patriots’ running game is three or four running backs deep
- They’ve actually added more backs this offseason, including Damien Harris and Brandon Bolden
- That duo joins an already stellar group consisting of Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead, James White, and fullback James Develin
While the piece discusses other talented running back corps in Cleveland and San Francisco, it makes a pretty good case that New England has the best.
The numbers back up the claim
Pointing towards a team’s potential or general talent can make for an iffy argument. Sure, New England has some fine players in the backfield, but what kind of results will they achieve?
If New England’s 2018 performance running the ball is any indicator, the ground game is in great shape. The Patriots’ backs put up considerable stats last season, ranking in the top 10 in several rushing categories. The numbers don’t lie. Consider:
- The Patriots were fifth overall in team rushing yards last season with 2,037
- They were fourth in rushing touchdowns with 18
- New England was fifth overall in rushing first downs with 131
- They were fifth in yards per game with 127.3
- They didn’t give the ball back very much, as they were second to last in fumbles with only 11
The Patriots certainly don’t have any big names at running back, though Michel certainly showed flashes of being an elite back in his rookie season. But if third-round pick Harris can be as effective in his first year as Michel was last year, the Patriots will boast the type of running back depth most teams dream about.
They still have the best QB…
The New England Patriots advantage in the running game is just the icing on the cake at this point. The rushing attack is strong, and they also have the greatest QB of all time under center in Tom Brady. In today’s pass-happy NFL, that’s still a big plus.
Last season, Brady put up some great numbers, including:
- 4,355 passing yards
- 29 touchdowns
- A 65.8% completion percentage
- 272.2 passing yards per game
- A QB rating of 97.7
It’s clear that the old man still has a lot of game left in him. It’s hard to say if Brady is still the No. 1 QB in the NFL right now — Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees could probably lay claim to that title. But he is clearly among the game’s best now, and he is the top QB of all time with six Super Bowl rings to his name. He’s yet another advantage the Patriots have over their competition.
…and the best coach
No summary of New England’s many advantages would be complete without noting the presence of the team’s mastermind, head coach Bill Belichick. Besides being a cunning in-game tactician, Belichick is also known for his calculating front office maneuvers.
It’s impossible to say whether Brady or Belichick is more responsible for the New England Patriots’ unprecedented dynasty — one could likely not thrive without the other — but it’s clear that both give the team a significant leg up on the rest of the league.
Combine them with the Patriots’ solidly dependable running attack, and it appears their reign as the league’s top franchise is likely to continue.