Week 6 of the NFL season is in the books and the New England Patriots are emerging as the team to beat to win Super Bowl 51 in Houston.
As reported in Pats Pulpit, a Patriots’ fan website, Las Vegas is favoring New England to win their division, their conference, and the Super Bowl. In the AFC East division race, the Patriots currently sit as overwhelming favorites with 1/10 odds. The team with the next best shot at winning the AFC East is Buffalo with 5/1 odds. As for the AFC conference title, the Patriots are 7/4 favorites, The Pittsburgh Steelers are the second-most likely team to win the AFC with 3/1 odds. The Patriots’ odds of winning of the Super Bowl are 7/2. The teams with the next best chance of winning the Super Bowl are Pittsburgh and the Minnesota Vikings with 7/1 odds each.
Jeff Dooley of the Washington Post’s gives four reasons why the Patriots look like the team to beat for this season’s Super Bowl championship. The first reason is quarterback Tom Brady. Brady, who is two weeks removed from a four-game suspension over ‘Deflategate,’ is playing as well as any quarterback in the NFL right now. The second reason Dooley likes the Patriots is the tight end combo of Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett. The luxury of having two good tight ends has meant that the Patriots are able to run almost 1/3rd of their plays from a two tight end set. The third reason why the Patriots are the team to beat is the improvement of this year’s offensive line compared to last season. Rookie guard Joe Thuney has given the Patriots’ offensive line a boost with solid run blocking. The final reason why Dooley believes the Patriots are the team to beat is their defense. The Patriots have one of the best defenses in the NFL, especially when it comes to stopping the run.
The biggest obstacle that the Patriots have had to overcome this season was the suspension of Brady. Still, even without Brady, the Patriots were a pretty good team going 3-1. Now, as ESPN’s Dan Graziano points out, Brady’s return has given New England a new sense of confidence for the rest of the season.
The Patriots’ confidence was especially evident in the second half of their Week 6 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. Trailing 14-10 early in the third quarter, the Patriots outpaced the Bengals the rest of the way to come out with a 35-17 win. Brady’s numbers in the game were spectacular. He completed 29 of 35 passes for 376 yards with three touchdown passes and no interceptions.
The Patriots have two critical road games with playoff implications in Weeks 7 and 8. In Week 7, the Patriots will be squaring off against the Steelers. Pittsburgh is currently sitting on a 4-2 record, one game behind the Patriots for home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs. In Week 8, the Patriots will look to avenge their only loss of the season when they travel to Buffalo. The Bills are also 4-2 and one game back of the Patriots for the AFC East division lead.
There is still alot of football left to played in the 2016-17 NFL season. But, if the Patriots are able to win their next two games, they will be in great position to remain the team to beat for the rest of this season.