Do the New England Patriots Have the Best Offense in Football?
20. 30. 16. 14.
Lottery numbers? Chad Henne passing yard totals? Something from Lost?
Nope. Those were the point totals for the New England Patriots in the team's first four games. Having scored more than 21 points just once, the Pats found themselves at a confounding 2-2, and in all honesty, nobody knew what to make of them.
After a 41-14 embarrassment on Monday Night Football in Kansas City, the Patriots reversed course and started scoring points. Since Week 5, New England has scored at least 37 points in 4 of 5 games and no fewer than 27 in any contest.
They currently rank fifth in offense according to our power rankings, but just how good has this New England offense been since Week 5?
Because "good" only exists if we know what "bad" is, let's first see how "terrible" that offense was through four weeks.
New England's Struggles
At numberFire, we have a metric called Net Expected Points (NEP). NEP tells us how many points above or below expectation a player or team is performing. We can adjust this based on schedule strength, and we can break it down on a per-play basis to even the playing field a bit between high-volume offenses and grind-the-clock units.
Based on Adjusted NEP per play, the Patriots, through Week 4, scored -0.06 points per play. On a given snap, the Patriots should have expected to lose points. That number, -0.06 points per play, ranked 30th in the NFL.
Adjusted Passing NEP per play? Brady led the Pats to a disappointing -0.05 points per play, 27th-best through Week 4. Rushing was, the worst of the bunch. At -0.03 points per play, the Patriots ranked 31st in the NFL.
And now this team is justifiably in contention for the "best offense in the NFL" discussion.
How? Why? What happened?
Since Week 5, the Patriots offense has been the best offense in football, and it hasn't been because of its rushing.
Through Week 9, the Patriots have an Adjusted Rushing NEP per play of just -0.05. They improved from 31st in Week 4 to 30th in Week 9. So, the upward trend really points to the place we already know: the passing game.
Yes. And it's not very close.
Here are the top six offenses since Week 4, sorted by Adjusted NEP per game.
|Team||Adj NEP/G||Adj Pass NEP/G||Adj Rush NEP/G|
New England has been 17.55 points better than the average team since Week 4, and only the Broncos really come close. In terms of passing production, Brady's Patriots are over four points better than the next best unit: Denver.
As an aside, the Seahawks have an Adjusted Passing NEP per game of -1.93 since Week 4. This, essentially, means that the Patriots could expect to outperform Seattle by 21.12 points through the passing game. That's a three-touchdown head start based on passing, and I'm not even talking about the Jaguars.
New England's change in Adjusted NEP since Week 4, 87.76, would be the fourth-best offense in the entire NFL. The Patriots have added more points above expectation in the past 5 games than 28 NFL teams have done all season.
Can They Keep Rolling?
New England's surge has been good enough to secure a 7-2 record after their 5-game win streak, but none of this will matter if their reversal of fortune won't last. But their 40.2 points per game have come against some pretty solid defensive units.
Buffalo ranks 4th in overall defense according to our metrics, and Denver ranks 10th. Cincinnati, the Jets, and Chicago, though, all rank 20th or worse. The rest of the season brings a mixture of easy matchups and tough ones, but the Patriots have produced against 2 top-10 units during this stretch.
They'll need to do the same against three of the top four defenses (Detroit, Miami, and Buffalo) before the season's end. But to lighten the load, they play Green Bay (24th), San Diego (31st), and the Jets (30th) during a four-week span.
Simply put, the Pats are on a tear, and it doesn't seem like any defense is going to slow them down any time soon - even if their run game isn't up to par.