Graphic by David Jakacky

At the end of last season, the New England Patriots finished with just seven wins. This year they came back and have already reached their previous mark of seven wins with six games still remaining. The Patriots are riding a five game win streak after beating the Atlanta Falcons and the Los Angeles Chargers. Their recent success means they could be contenders to win the AFC.

After last season’s disappointment, a lot of people questioned whether or not head coach Bill Belichick was only good because of Tom Brady, who left the team last year. Now with a rookie quarterback under center, Belichick seems to be proving his doubters wrong once again.

The aforementioned quarterback Mac Jones has continued his very successful rookie season. While his numbers have not been eye popping, he has done a fantastic job leading the offense to scores with little turnover. He’s only had one game that featured multiple interceptions, which totaled up to three against the New Orleans Saints back in September. 

So far this season, Jones has completed 70.2% of his passes for 2,540 yards, along with 14 touchdown passes to just eight interceptions.

After James White suffered a season-ending hip injury, the Patriots have gone with a running back by committee approach with no real standouts. Damien Harris leads the way with 603 yards on 143 carries and seven touchdowns. Rookie Rhamondre Stevenson is second with 305 yards on 67 carries for three touchdowns.

While the receivers may have struggled at the beginning of the year, they found their rhythm. While there are no superstars, the group as a whole has done a very good job helping Jones out.

Jakobi Meyers emerged as the heir apparent to the recently retired Julian Edelman this season, and Meyers leads the team with 54 receptions for 522 yards and one touchdown. Free agent acquisitions Kendrick Bourne and Hunter Henry have played key roles now that they are more comfortable with Jones. Bourne this season has 37 receptions for 562 yards and three touchdowns. Henry has 33 receptions for 378 yards and 7 touchdowns, making him Jones’ top red zone target.

The Patriots offensive line has been rock solid, and this week they were aided by left tackle Trent Brown’s return to the starting lineup. In Brown’s first game back against the Browns, the Patriots completely dominated up front thanks to him, Isaiah Wynn, Ted Karras, David Andrews and Shaq Mason all putting in great work.

The defense has not given up more than seven points in the last three weeks. The Patriots have been able to get to the quarterback 28 times for sacks, intercepting them 18 times and forcing four fumbles. The defense is shaping up to be a real force for other teams to deal with. 

Matthew Judon leads the Patriots in sacks this year with 10.5 on 22 quarterback hits, and Kyle Van Noy follows him with four. Second year safety Kyle Duggar leads the team with 70 tackles and three interceptions. Linebacker Ja’Whuan Bentley is second with 63 tackles. Cornerback J.C. Jackson leads the defense with the second most interceptions in the league with six, followed by safety Adrian Phillips with four.

The Patriots’ end of the season will not be an easy one. They still have to play solid teams like the Indianapolis Colts, Tennessee Titans and the Buffalo Bills, but they also have to play two of the lowest-seated teams in football in the New York Jets and the Jacksonville Jaguars. Week 17 might be tricky, as they play the Miami Dolphins on the road. The Patriots have already lost to the Dolphins this year and they always play hard against New England.

As it stands right now, the New England Patriots sit at a 7-4 record and are currently in a position to get a playoff spot thanks to their impressive run in the last few weeks. If the Patriots are able to keep this up, they should be a lock to make the playoffs as, at least, a wild card team.