10 things Patriots fans should be thankful for

8 of 10

Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

3. Outstanding interior defensive line group

Much like the departures the secondary experienced over the offseason, the defensive line was an area of concern entering 2015 because of Vince Wilfork leaving for the Houston Texans. But the unit has significantly outperformed expectations.

The Patriots rank 2nd having allowed only 888 rushing yards this season. Given, that stat is somewhat skewed since teams are often playing from behind, but the fact remains that the Pats just aren’t allowing teams to have success running against them. Take Week 7, for example, when the Pats allowed just 60 yards rushing to the top-ranked ground game of the Jets.

The story is in the snap counts. According to Football Outsiders, 2015 first-round pick Malcom Brown has logged 286 snaps; Alan Branch, 284; Dominique Easley, 282; Sealver Siliga, 239. As evidenced by those numbers, the Patriots are taking a committee approach to the interior of the defensive line.

The two veterans, Branch and Siliga, were influential in the Super Bowl XLIX win and thus are dependable. The two first-rounders, Brown and Easley, are extremely talented and promising. The combination of these four have boosted the entire defense, and Patriots fans should be thankful for that. Their impact cannot be overlooked.

Next: 2. A healthy Gronk