The 2007 Patriots, despite losing to New York in the Super Bowl, are arguably the best NFL team ever assembled. Could this year’s roster possibly be better?
With the haunting memory of Super Bowl XLII buried in New England‘s psyche, Pats fans still crave the elusive dream of a complete perfect season. Only two weeks into the year, “19-0” is an idea that’s growing from hopeful wish to strong possibility in the minds of New England fans and football analysts alike.
Two absolutely dominant victories have cemented the Pats as Super Bowl favorites, even though yesterday’s victory in Miami might have been against the league’s worst team. Looking ahead, the Pats face a Jets team missing Sam Darnold, the typically injury-hampered Redskins, an inconsistent Bills crew, and the Giants, starring Saquon Barkley and only Saquon Barkley.
Unless bad luck strikes, the Pats will probably start the season with at least a six-game win streak. So before mainstream sports networks begin fearing 19-0, let’s compare this year’s Pats with the team that almost did it 12 years ago, the 2007 Patriots.
Three men strongly link the 2019 Pats with their ’07 counterparts: quarterback Tom Brady, head coach Bill Belichick, and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. Probably the three most important figures on the team, these men are the backbone of what could be an undefeated season.
It’s true that Brady isn’t in the prime of his career, but he’s still a top QB with one of the league’s highest football IQs. McDaniels has also improved steadily since the mid-2000s, turning from a young mentee in New England to a veteran OC who’s routinely hunted for head coaching spots in the offseason. And Belichick, of course, is an unchanging immortal figure who oversees the NFL much as the ancient god Zeus lorded over Greece.
The rest of the offensive lineup also has more in common with the 16-0 team than you might think. Stephen Gostkowski is still New England’s kicker, and they happen to have reacquired tight end Benjamin Watson, who featured on the Pats from 2004-2009.
Many people have also compared wide receiver Antonio Brown with Randy Moss, as they’re both star WRs who signed from Oakland after significant attitude issues. Statistically, Brown could have a similar breakout season to Moss’ record-breaking campaign. This is not a prediction that he will (I’d be very surprised if it happened), but Brown has topped 1600 yards and 15 touchdowns before, so his ceiling is very high.
Julian Edelman and Wes Welker share obvious parallels: they are two of the best slot receivers to ever play the game, and Brady has leaned on both throughout the last decade. The two WRs have put up similar career numbers, and Edelman shows no sign of slowing down.
The biggest difference comes from the receiver depth. Following Welker and Moss in ’07, the team’s next receivers up were Donte Stallworth and Jabar Gaffney. Stallworth was a solid receiver with almost 700 receiving yards in 2007, though he never eclipsed 1000 yards in his career. Gaffney was an okay WR4, logging 449 yards that year.
The 2019 Patriots take Stallworth/Gaffney and raise them Gordon/Dorsett.
Assuming Josh Gordon remains in a healthy place with his addiction struggles, he has enormous upside… and is actually more similar to Randy Moss than Antonio Brown is. With a 6’3, 225-pound frame, Gordon can both outrun you and outreach you. He also has a 1600-yard season under his belt, and he gained 720 yards in only 11 games last year.
Phillip Dorsett’s one of the fastest members of the Pats offense, showing his speed and skill catching bombs from Brady in their Week 1 win against Pittsburgh. He’s caught seven passes for 135 yards in his first two games, despite technically being a WR4.
If these guys don’t convince you, consider first round pick N’Keal Harry and UDFA Jakobi Meyers, who have both looked very strong in the preseason. The 2019 Pats win the WR competition over their 2007 counterparts.
In the backfield, we compare Kevin Faulk (07) and James White (19), two short, quick receiving backs. White tops Faulk in yards from scrimmage by a good amount over their respective stretches, and White’s proven to be as clutch as they come in the postseason.
The two teams’ power backs are Laurence Maroney (07) and Sony Michel (19). Maroney was a serviceable RB in New England, running 835 yards in 2007 for what would be his career high. Michel doesn’t top him by too much, having rushed for 931 yards last year; but as a young player who shone in college and a former first-round draft pick, Michel has the potential to grow further than Maroney.
Now let’s look at the defenses.
The 2007 Patriots defense often gets overlooked because of the glitz of their high-powered offense, but they were great in their own right, allowing the league’s fourth-fewest points that year. Both the 2007 and 2019 squads found their strength in their secondary, led by great dreadlocked cornerbacks Asante Samuel (07) and Stephon Gilmore (19).
The 2007 team might have the advantage in QB pressure, as Mike Vrabel logged an impressive 12.5 sacks that season. However, Gilmore is arguably the best CB in the league at the moment, and the McCourty twins plus Jonathon Jones in the secondary have been lights-out so far. Give the 2019 Patriots an advantage in that area.
It’s only Week 2, but so far the Belichick-led defense has looked terrifying. Three points allowed through two games, plus seven sacks and four interceptions (two returned for touchdowns) in the Miami matchup, means New England’s defense looks as good as it ever has. We’ll have to see if it holds up, but the opposing teams coming up on the schedule shouldn’t pose too difficult a challenge in terms of scoring offenses.
So am I declaring a perfect19-0 season?
Despite the roster’s overwhelming strength, I won’t go that far. The first obstacle is the pair of major injuries sustained on the offensive line, Marcus Cannon and Isaiah Wynn. If these players are out for any extended time, Brady will surely face more pressure off the edges, and the running game will be more difficult to kickstart. Many a dominant team has fallen because of O-line woes.
The second obstacle is simple: the Kansas City Chiefs. So far, Patrick Mahomes is looking like one of the best quarterbacks the NFL has ever seen, and when he heats up, he’s unstoppable. The Pats face Mahomes and the Chiefs in Week 14, and I’d be willing to bet it could also be the AFC Championship matchup.
On paper, I believe this squad could be the best the league’s ever seen. However, there are significant variables that might get in the way of an undefeated season.
One prediction we’re confident in making today though? If the Patriots do in fact reach the Super Bowl on a perfect 18-game winning streak, Eli Manning won’t be there to stop them this time around… which could be big (cosmically) for New England in striving for 19-0 and immortality once again.