The New England Patriots haven’t lost very often as underdogs during the Bill Belichick era, and that trend continued on Sunday when they picked up a season-defining road win over Justin Herbert and the Los Angeles Chargers.
The victory propelled the Patriots back to .500 and into the playoff conversation in the crowded AFC, in which every team has at least two losses.
With that in mind, is it time to start thinking about New England as a potential playoff team in 2021 with the expanded field?
The AFC East crown might be out of the question with the Bills establishing themselves as the runaway favorites, but one of the two Wild Card spots is suddenly a real possibility.
The Patriots have a lot of work to do before we can declare them a true playoff contender, but here are a few reasons why a run into the tournament is feasible.
3 reasons why the 2021 Patriots are a playoff team
3. Defense is building confidence
You might look at Sunday’s box score and say, “The Patriots gave up 24 points. How on earth is the defense getting any better?”
Well, for starters, the box score should never be your be all end all when it comes to judging a team’s performance. It can be used to support an argument, not as the foundation of said argument.
With that out of the way, this marks two straight games that New England’s defense has answered the bell. Herbert admitted that Belichick’s game plan bamboozled him, and the budding QB turned in his worst performance of the year. Pretty impressive given how many playmakers LA has on offense.
Out of eight games this season, the Patriots’ defense has performed well in five of them. Their only lackluster showings came in Week 3 vs the Saints (mainly because the offense was bad), Week 5 vs Houston and Week 6 vs Dallas. We’d even argue the defense played well enough to beat the Cowboys, but that’s neither here nor there.
The bottom line is that Belichick’s defensive group is building confidence before a favorable stretch of games that includes matchups against the Panthers, Browns, Falcons, and Titans without Derrick Henry.
Don’t say we didn’t warn you.