Hannable: Why next few weeks are so important for Patriots

Ryan Hannable
October 26, 2017 - 12:04 am

David Butler II/USA Today Sports

FOXBORO — Tom Brady has been in the league for 18 seasons and has won five Super Bowls, so you could say he has a pretty good idea of what it takes to win. 

The thing the majority of the winning teams he’s been on have had in common is for the most part they get better as the season goes on, and typically start playing their best football around Thanksgiving.

For the Patriots this season, it’s right around the corner and it also comes with the toughest part of their schedule.

Brady knows how important the upcoming stretch will be.

“We're at the, obviously, close to the midway point and this is when we've really got to hit the accelerator because that's what the good teams do,” he said.

Following this Sunday’s game against the Chargers the Patriots will have their bye week, but after that comes the most difficult part of the schedule this season: at Denver, at Oakland (in Mexico City), home against Miami, at Buffalo, at Miami on Monday night and at Pittsburgh. 

This was the five out of six-game road stretch everyone talked about when the schedule was released in the spring. Brutal.

Following last Sunday’s big win over the Falcons on Sunday Night Football, this Sunday’s game against the Chargers may be equally important with the bye week following the game and then the most critical stretch of the entire year to follow.

“I think that bye week is just really a chance to re-evaluate where you're at,” Brady said. “Knowing that this is the last game before that you want to finish on a high note and you want to go in feeling really good about what you've done. The problem is this team is – they're hot, they've won three straight, they've got a really good defense. There's nothing easy about it. 

“It's a big challenge facing them but to get to 6-2 would be huge for this team and that's what we're going to try to do.”  

Offensively, it’s time for the Patriots to stick with an identity. 

Over the first few weeks of the season it was the vertical passing game and throwing the ball down the field, but this approach took a toll on Brady with the number of hits he was taking because of how much longer he took to get rid of the ball. In the last few games, it has appeared the offense has shifted to more of a running-game emphasis, which has taken some of the pressure off Brady in the passing game. While he is still taking shots down the field, it’s more centered around the running game to set up more managable third downs, and without Julian Edelman, this may be the best way to go moving forward.

Sunday against the Chargers and the bye week are the Patriots’ last chance to tweak anything because after that it’s all about getting to the postseason and there’s no turning back, especially after the Oct. 31 trade deadline. With how tightly bunched the AFC is and the 2-2 start, the Patriots haven’t given themselves much wiggle room when it comes to getting the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

As it stands now, they are tied with the Chiefs and Steelers for the best record at 5-2, but behind them in the division both the Bills and Dolphins are 4-2. After the bye, that difficult road stretch will likely decide what seed the Patriots will be in the playoffs. Based on years past, we know how important it is for the team to be the No. 1 seed and get homefield advantage throughout the postseason.

While this week against the Chargers may just seem like another October home game and then a relaxing bye week on tap, this is actually a very important stretch for the Patriots because if they don’t click with their offensive identity and drop a few games, it may come back to really hurt come January.

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