The New England Patriots’ outlook over the next four weeks

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - SEPTEMBER 08: Devin McCourty #32 of the New England Patriots celebrates with teammates after intercepting a pass during the fourth quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Gillette Stadium on September 08, 2019 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - SEPTEMBER 08: Devin McCourty #32 of the New England Patriots celebrates with teammates after intercepting a pass during the fourth quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Gillette Stadium on September 08, 2019 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

The New England Patriots will be facing some challenging teams over the next four weeks, when they’ll take on the Eagles, Cowboys, Texans, and Chiefs.

For the better part of the last decade, the New England Patriots have dominated and taken control of the AFC. The Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans have evolved into great competition for New England over the last few seasons though, as both franchises have been trending upwards for a few years now.

The Patriots will face these opponents in back-to-back weeks, tackling the Texans in Week 13 and the Chiefs in Week 14. They also have difficult draws against two NFC East division leaders first: the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 11 (this weekend) and the Dallas Cowboys in Week 12.

All four of these teams have recently gone through a rebuilding process that has started with their quarterbacks. Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott were both drafted in 2016, while Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson were drafted in 2017. The progression of these four quarterbacks has not only put their own teams in better positional ranks – it’s also altered the overall trajectory and complexion of the NFL itself.

The Patriots are more familiar with the Chiefs and Texans than the Eagles and Cowboys. It’s not just because the Chiefs and Texans are in the same conference as the Pats; it also comes down to how the schedule is made through the NFL’s competition committee.

The Houston Texans have been knocking on New England’s front door for almost three seasons now. Deshaun Watson is an elite player who is the real deal and the full package, throwing 301.2 yards per game this season with a 70.2 completion percentage to boot. He’s easily an MVP candidate alongside Patrick Mahomes, Russell Wilson, and Christian McCaffrey.

The potential deep threats of DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller V are a lethal combination to have to manage for the Patriots defense. Fuller unfortunately happens to be a frequent member of the injured list, but his talent and potential are apparent to anyone with eyes. Hopkins is quite simply one of the top-five wide receivers in the NFL today.

What concerns me from a Patriots perspective about the Texans offense is that it’s designed for Deshaun Watson to always be able to take the ball himself and run. We all know that Watson in the open field is a nightmare for defenses (including the Pats in years past), and he already has five rushing touchdowns this season. We also just saw what the Baltimore Ravens’ Lamar Jackson did to the Patriots in primetime.

For Kansas City, ever since Patrick Mahomes took over the offense, the Chiefs have been a dominant and almost unstoppable force in the NFL. Mahomes is passing for 338.5 yards per game with a 66.3 completion percentage. The pairing of Mahomes and Tyreek Hill quite possibly could develop into the best quarterback/receiver pairing in history; Hill is probably the fastest guy in the NFL and arguably one of the fastest people in the world, and he’s averaging 90.5 receiving yards per game this season.

New England’s defense always has their work cut out for them when facing the Chiefs. Along with Hill, the Chiefs have been getting valiant production from rookie receiver Mecole Hardman, who also has five touchdowns so far this season.

These games between the Patriots and Chiefs are typically high-scoring affairs. Even with the Chiefs’ spotty defense, the Patriots still need to execute on most of their offensive possessions to stay in the game. As far as the New England defense, they’ve learned from their mistakes on how to handle Tyreek Hill… containing him is going to be key for this defense.

The unpredictability and unfamiliarity factors are going to influence the Patriots more than anything when they take on the Cowboys and Eagles.

The last time the New England Patriots and Dallas Cowboys faced off against each other was in October of 2015, when the Pats traveled to Dallas and won the game 30-6. On the same note, the last time the Eagles and Pats played each other was in the Patriots’ Super Bowl LII loss two seasons ago.

Dallas’ Dak Prescott has proven to be an elite quarterback when he has a full arsenal of weapons around him. Amari Cooper, Randall Cobb, and Ezekiel Elliot each give Prescott and the Cowboys offense more play options at their disposal. Prescott is averaging 328 yards per game through the air this year.

The Patriots need to shut down Elliot to win this game. We’ve seen this season that the Pats have struggled against some of the top running backs in the league like Nick Chubb (131 yards), Mark Ingram (115 yards), and Frank Gore (109 yards), who each destroyed this New England defense by running right through the middle.

The Cowboys have a better and more solid offensive line and running back than both the Browns and the Bills. The Patriots need to respect the Cowboys’ ability to run the ball at will; Elliot is averaging 4.4 yards per carry for 86.7 rushing yards per game in 2019.

As previously mentioned, the Pats and Eagles haven’t played each other in a meaningful game since Super Bowl LII. We’ve seen the Eagles give the business to the Pats more than any other team in more recent years, but this time around should be a different outcome.

The strength of the New England Patriots this season comes from their defense. For the Eagles to be successful in this game, I think they’re going to have to win the air battle – which is easier said than done since the Patriots have arguably the best secondary in the league.

Carson Wentz is averaging 244.9 yards per game while only at a 62.7 percent completion rate. With DeSean Jackson going to IR and Alshon Jeffery missing multiple practices this week due to an ankle injury, the receiving options are becoming thinner and thinner for Wentz and the Eagles.

If the Eagles need to resort to the run, the duo of Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders has proven to be effective; together that pair is averaging 95.6 rushing yards per game.

Tom Brady reflects on Super Bowl LII loss to Eagles. dark. Next

I think out of the next four teams the New England Patriots are going to play, the Dallas Cowboys are going to be the most challenging. The Cowboys have an offense that is loaded with weapons, they can run the ball at ease whenever they want, and their interior defense of Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch is one of the best linebacking tandems in the league at what they do.

Who do you think represents the biggest challenge for the Patriots over the next four weeks? Let us know in the comments section below!