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3 issues Patriots still have even after bye week

Ryan Hannable
November 27, 2018 - 7:27 pm

While the Patriots spent the majority of their bye week self-scouting ahead of the Jets game, there were still issues that showed up.

Yes, the Patriots won 27-13, but there were still areas of concern.

Given how close all the top teams in the AFC are, every little thing will count in the postseason and mistakes could be the difference between winning and losing.

Here are three issues the Patriots still have and need to clean up over the final five games of the regular season.

1. Short-yardage on both sides of ball

This has been an issue for the Patriots all season long, especially on offense when passing the ball. Against the Jets, the Patriots were 2-for-7 on third-and-4 or less (pass or run), but overall it’s been a bigger issue when throwing. On passing plays of third-and-3 or less this year, the Patriots are converting first downs just 41 percent (7-of-17) of the time. That’s not a great percentage, especially with Tom Brady at quarterback.

On the other side of the ball, on third-and-short things aren’t great against the run or pass. On third-and-3 or less, opponents are picking up first downs 80 percent (26-of-35) of the time. With the defense being slightly above average, just getting a few more stops on third down would make a huge difference.

2. Red zone offense and defense

Dating back to Week 8, the Patriots are just 6-for-12 in the red zone. For the year, they are scoring touchdowns 63 percent of the time, which is good for 13th in the NFL. With that being said, it’s worth noting the Steelers, Saints and Chiefs are all in the top-10 above 70 percent. This needs to be better, and they need to be better running the ball in the red area. Not only can it gain yards, but it also helps set up play-action. Right now, it seems the go-to play has been low-percentage fades. That needs to stop.

Defensively, it is allowing touchdowns 60 percent of the time, which is 17th in the league. This is not how the good Patriots teams do things. They are still employing the bend but don’t break style, and the thing that has worked in the past is they pick up their play in the red zone. In the three most recent Super Bowl appearances, they have had a top-10 red zone defense. Based on that, things need to improve and improve in a hurry.

3. Play on the road

While the Patriots did beat the Jets for their third road win of the year in six games, a troubling trend occurred once again. In five of the six games, the Patriots have trailed in the first half. They were able to quickly overcome a seven-point deficit against the Jets, but they weren’t able to overcome first quarter deficits against the Jaguars, Lions and Titans -- their three losses this season. Right now, the Patriots would be the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs so if things go as they should, they would have to go on the road against Kansas City for the AFC title game. Getting off to a slow start there could potentially end their season given how high-powered the Chiefs' offense is.

Also, the Patriots’ home-road splits are pretty staggering, particularly on offense. They are averaging 35.4 points at home, compared to 21.6 points on the road. This is something they can improve upon in the final five games with road games against the Dolphins and Steelers.

Related: Cordarrelle Patterson appears to be a very popular player in Patriots locker room