The 2018 and 2019 New England Patriots
The New England Patriots got off to a great start in their attempt to repeat last season as they started 8-0. However, they finished just 4-4 in the second half, including a dramatic week 17 loss that gave the Chiefs a first round bye instead of them. The Patriots would then lose a home wildcard game to the Tennessee Titans.
The fall off for the Patriots is a little simpler to identify than the Eagles. Their offense fell off. In fact, their defense was dramatically better in 2019 than their Super Bowl winning season in 2018.
The Patriots defense was fairly average in 2018. They were 21st in yards per game with 359.1 and that dropped all the way to 275.9 in 2019 (best in the NFL). They were significantly better against the pass and a little better stopping the run as well. Their number of sacks went from just 30 in 2018 up to 47 last year. The defense was definitely significantly improved in their attempt to repeat, but the offense simply couldn’t put up enough points when it mattered. In their five losses last season, the Pats’ defense only gave up over 30 points in one of them.
So what happened to the offense? Simply put, Rob Gronkowski retired and Tom Brady finally started showing his age. Patriots fans were the first ones to tell you that it was their lack of weapons and not Brady that was the issue, but I’m not sure that is fair. Yes, Brady definitely missed Gronkowski, but the Pats passing attack was pretty much Gronk, Julian Edelman and a bunch of role players in their Super Bowl season. Brady’s completion percentage dropped a full 5 percent to the lowest it had been in over 15 years in 2019. His yards per attempt dropped a full yard to the lowest it had been in over 15 years as well. That’s not all on the loss of Gronk.
With defenses less worried about Brady and the passing game they were able to stop the run better as well, with the Pats rushing yards dropping about 21 yards per game and their yards per carry falling from 4.3 to 3.8. So the main thing that kept the Patriots from having a real shot to repeat was the loss of one of their best offensive weapons and the decline in play of their quarterback. Those things simply shouldn’t be an issue for the Chiefs this season if everyone stays healthy.
If you went back and looked at fan and expert predictions for the last two seasons, you would likely have seen both the Eagles and Patriots as popular picks to win again. Obviously, it didn’t work out for them. The Chiefs now find themselves as a popular pick to repeat this coming season. As we’ve just seen, they seem poised to avoid the pitfalls that derailed the two previous Super Bowl champions.
The question now is are we being overconfident? Having a quarterback like Patrick Mahomes certainly makes it easy to feel positive. Still, these other teams likely didn’t see themselves failing in a repeat bid before the season. Could the same thing happen to Kansas City?
In my opinion, the Chiefs are better set up to repeat than the past couple of Super Bowl winners. Am I being biased? I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments below. Do you agree the Chiefs are better equipped to repeat than these teams or do you think there are things I am overlooking? Obviously injuries can always play a big part in things, but if the Chiefs stay healthy they have so many players returning that I simply have a hard time predicting a drop off in play.