The New England Patriots improved to 9-1 after defeating the Philadelphia Eagles 17-10 on Sunday. But you wouldn't know it by Tom Brady's mounting frustration. The six-time Super Bowl champion was noticeably sour in his postgame presser, bemoaning the offense's sputtering state while simultaneously heaping praise on the team's defense for "keeping us in every game."
In all honesty, I get why Brady isn't happy -- even with just one loss on the season. The Patriots should've throttled the Eagles, whose defense ranked 18th in scoring, 16th in passing and 25th in the red zone entering last weekend's game. Instead, the Patriots totaled less than 300 yards and had fewer than 20 points in a game for the second time this season -- the first was Week 4 vs. the Bills. Their struggles on third down and in the red zone continued, as the Pats converted just five of 16 third downs and hit paydirt on one of three red-zone trips. They entered the game ranked tied for 21st in red-zone offense, having converted just 50 percent of their red-zone appearances. The offense looked out of sorts throughout Sunday's game, and Brady had one of his worst games in memory: 26 of 47 for 216 yards (a minuscule 4.6 yards per attempt) with zero touchdowns, zero picks and a 67.3 passer rating. The 14-time Pro Bowler had 14 first-half incompletions -- the most of any game in his 20-year career.
When asked after Sunday's game what will get the Patriots' offense back on track, Brady replied, "I don't think it matters what I think. It matters what we do."
Well, I didn't see the Pats do much on Sunday. In addition to New England's aerial issues, the ground game was stagnant, totaling 74 yards on 22 carries (3.4 yards per attempt). So the question I have is ...
The offensive struggles certainly provide cause for concern. Now is the time of the season when teams really start to identify who they are, and it's no secret that New England leans on its top-ranked defense, which Brady has acknowledged several times in 2019. Many teams, including New England, have gone on to win the Super Bowl with a dominant defense leading the way. But this offense has no identity. We're 11 weeks into the season and I still have no idea what to make of this Pats attack.
This year's unit is missing some key players who made significant impacts in last season's Super Bowl title run, including offensive tackle Trent Brown (with Oakland), tight end Rob Gronkowski (retired), Chris Hogan (with Carolina) and fullback James Develin (on IR). Sony Michel and the run game have suffered without Brown, Gronk and Develin, while the pass game has been so-so with the constant reshuffling of receivers and Brady's inaccurate passes. The 42-year-old QB's thrown seven TDs and five INTS over the last seven games, and it's evident the trust with his receivers isn't quite there. First-round draft pick N'Keal Harry is just now seeing the field after spending the first two months of the season on IR. Mohamed Sanu has been with New England for less than a month after coming over from Atlanta at the trade deadline. Ben Watson is a sliver of what Gronk was at the tight end position -- as a pass catcher and blocker. That leaves Julian Edelman -- and as good as he is, he's not a No. 1 receiver. Not to mention, he's had some uncharacteristic drops in 2019.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft has suggested he wants Gronk back for the postseason, but time is running out for the tight end to make his return. According to the rules, the last day for Gronkowski and the team to agree to grant him an official return to the roster would be Saturday, Nov. 30 -- the day before the team's Week 13 game (it's already Week 12). Even if Gronk does return -- which he most likely won't -- his physical transformation over the last nine months would hinder his play. He wouldn't be even close to the force in the run game or the physical mismatch downfield. Sorry, Mr. Kraft. Gronk's almost definitely not walking through that door.
Right now, the Patriots are relying on their defense to win games and it's worked out so far. But Josh McDaniels must find ways to create offense. The Patriots have faced just three teams with winning records this season and averaged 15.3 points in those games. Looking even further at those three games, Brady has performed below his season average in almost every category, with a 56.1 completion percentage, 217 pass yards per game, 65.6 passer rating(!) and a 1:2 TD-to-INT ratio.
Now, the Patriots are the best at making adjustments throughout the course of a game or the season. Take last season for example: They were a pass-heavy team in the regular season, but by January, they ran Michel religiously out of the I-formation. Michel even broke several postseason rushing records after playing a lesser role during the regular season. There's a chance we could see some improvement over the next six weeks, but the Patriots are behind the 8-ball right now.
Another factor is the AFC doesn't match up well for New England this season. The Chiefs and Ravens are scoring 30 points every time out, with the opponents making no difference. And although the Pats rank third in scoring (28.7 points per game) -- that's with help from the defense -- the offense has played poorly against teams with .500 records or better. I expect Bill Belichick and his staff won't get much sleep over the next two months, and I won't be surprised if the New England's offense starts to come together.
But when we get down to the nitty gritty of the postseason, I don't think the Patriots will have enough to get the job done this time -- sending us into the offseason with a billion questions surrounding Brady and the future of a unit that's been dominant for so long.
Each week in the 2019 campaign, former No. 1 overall pick and NFL Network analyst David Carr will take a look at all offensive players and rank his top 15. Rankings are based solely on this season's efforts. Now, let's get to it -- the Week 12 pecking order is below.
Wilson is on pace for career highs in pass yards per game (273.7), completion percentage (68.5) and passer rating (114.9) this season. No Seahawk has played better this season than Wilson. The upcoming three-game stretch, which includes an away game in Philly and a pair of prime-time games vs. the Vikings and at Rams, could be a huge deciding factor in Wilson's MVP campaign -- especially with Lamar Jackson and Christian McCaffrey showing out every week -- and where the 'Hawks sit in the playoff picture.
McCaffrey is putting on a clinic every week. In Week 11, he registered a whopping 191 scrimmage yards, and most of those came in the pass game (11 receptions for 121 yards). When looking at the record books entering Week 12, the Panthers RB1 cemented himself among some of the greatest to ever do it: His 1,576 scrimmage yards are the third-most by any player in the first 10 games of a season since 1950, trailing only Hall of Famers Jim Brown (1,704 in 1963) and O.J. Simpson (1,609 in 1975), per NFL Media Research. With six games left to play, McCaffrey's historical season wil keep re-writing the record books.
There wasn't a more talked-about game heading into Week 11 than the meeting between Lamar Jackson's Ravens and Deshaun Watson's Texans. Whatever the narratives or questions were heading into the contest were put to rest after the Ravens destroyed the Texans. Jackson is a sure-fire MVP candidate and proves as much every time he takes the field. Against Romeo Crennel's defense, Jackson threw four TD passes and rushed for 86 yards. Defensive coordinators with the Ravens on the schedule aren't getting much sleep these days. Wade Phillips, you got next.
Entering Week 11 as the league leader in offensive touches, rush yards and scrimmage yards, Cook had season-low performances in carries (11), offensive touches (16), rush yards (26), and rush yards per attempt (2.4) vs. Denver. The Vikings looked out of sorts in the first half, but they were able to get back to their identity and get Cook involved more in the second half. It was nice to see them stick with the ground game even when trailing (which they were for most of the game), and equally nice to see Cook punch in a score to begin the fourth-quarter comeback.
After Week 11, Thomas has 94 receptions and 1,141 receiving yards this season (both most in NFL). He's producing at an incredible pace with six games remaining. He's not just a receiver who makes contested catches on the perimeter but a guy who can gain a ton of YAC yards due to the separation he creates and his ability once the ball is in his hands. In Sunday's game alone, Thomas had six catches for 83 yards on short passes (less than 10 air yards), according to Next Gen Stats. He's a complete receiver who is a factor no matter who's defending him.
The Chiefs' offense didn't have its best game and Mahomes was the first to admit it in his postgame press conference. Mahomes threw for 182 yards (his lowest total ever in a game he's finished) but made good decisions and used his mobility when needed. We haven't seen Mahomes scramble much this season due to his lower-body injuries, but he made the Chargers pay in Week 11 by picking up positive gains and first downs along the way. Surprisingly, Mahomes was the game's leading rusher with a career-high 59 rush yards.
Maybe for the first time in his career, Zeke doesn't have to carry the load for the Cowboys' offense. Dak Prescott is playing like he has something to prove, and this stat shows just how well Dak is playing: The Cowboys won their first game when Zeke rushed for fewer than 50 yards, improving them to 1-4 since 2016 in this scenario. In Sunday's win over the Lions, Zeke had just 18 touches for 73 scrimmage yards but got in the end zone twice. That's how you make your opportunities count.
Man, that wasn't the prettiest game for Watson or the entire Texans team if we're being frank. The Ravens' defense smothered Watson from start to finish, and with the help of Lamar Jackson and Co., Baltimore handed Watson his first career loss by double-digit points. Watson was sacked six times (for 49 yards) and turned the ball over twice (one INT, one fumble). It just wasn't his day. There's not much time to dwell on the poor outing, though, as a huge AFC South game with the division-leading Colts (6-4) looms on Thursday.
Derek continued his hot streak by opening Sunday's game with 14 straight completions for 151 yards and a TD pass (135.4 passer rating). All of the work he's put in building chemistry and perfecting timing with his pass catchers is evident, and he's done a good job buying time and making plays with his legs -- an area of focus during Derek's offseason work. The way Derek and the Raiders' offense is playing, they have a legitimate shot to make the playoffs for the first time since Jon Gruden returned to coaching.
Mahomes and Kelce were so in sync Monday night that it felt like the passer dropped a perfect ball into Kelce's hands every time I looked at the TV. Kelce really stepped up after Tyreek Hill exited with a hamstring injury, and that's why he's one of the best tight ends in the league right now. He finished Monday's game with seven receptions for 92 yards, including this 23-yard TD reception in the third quarter.
Coming off the bye week, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers should feel pretty good entering their Week 12 prime-time tilt with San Francisco, the only team ahead of them in the NFC. Minus the poor performance in Los Angeles, Rodgers has played well -- with some talking about him in the MVP discussion -- and should be confident heading into the final third of the season.
Ezekiel Elliott had high praise for his quarterback after Sunday's road win over Detroit when he said, "Dak is playing the best football I have ever seen him play ..." I have to agree with the league's two-time rushing king. Prescott is leading the Cowboys on and off the field and it feels like he's earning every cent of his future contract by the second. Against the Lions, Prescott threw for 444 yards and three touchdowns, registering his third 400-yard passing game this season (he had one in his first three seasons combined). The quarterback has the Cowboys trending in the right direction heading into their greatest challenge of the season -- facing the top-ranked Patriots defense in Foxborough.
Kamara is slowly finding his groove again after missing two games in October. He made some big-time plays in the Saints' victory over the Bucs with 122 scrimmage yards and five forced missed tackles on 23 touches, per Pro Football Focus. His performance showed me that the Saints' dynamic running back is feeling healthy right as we get into the thick of the NFL season. Look for Kamara's usage and production to increase as the postseason nears.
The Falcons have been all over the board in 2019, but the one positive constant has been Ryan and the passing attack. The Falcons (3-7) boast the third-best passing offense in the league, which isn't all that surprising considering the players in Ryan's supporting cast. The veteran passer has seven games with 300-plus pass yards (tied for most in the league with Jameis Winston) and has a 69.2 completion percentage this season -- comparable to his 2016 MVP campaign. It's just a bummer that the defense decided to wait until Week 10 to show up.
JUST OUTSIDE THE TOP 15
Nick Chubb, RB, Browns: Chubb was the first player this season to surpass 1,000 rushing yards with 92 yards on 27 carries in Thursday's win over Pittsburgh. The last Browns player to rush for 1,000-plus yards in a season was Peyton Hillis in 2010. Based on what I've seen in Chubb's second season, the Browns have a backfield staple for years to come.
Drew Brees, QB, Saints: Brees returned to the quarterback we're used to seeing Sunday against the Bucs, completing 28 of 35 pass attempts for 228 yards and three TDs. This is the level Brees must play at down the stretch and in the postseason if the Saints want to erase the pain of their recent postseason exits. It was nice to see the veteran passer bounce back against the blitz after getting dominated by the Falcons a week prior. Against the blitz on Sunday, Brees completed 11 of 15 passes for 79 yards and two TDs.
Kirk Cousins, QB, Vikings: Cousins led one heck of a comeback Sunday, throwing three second-half touchdown passes to lift the Vikings to a victory over the Broncos. The Vikings quarterback has been criticized often, but I've seen some great play out of him over the last few weeks to put Minnesota at 8-3 heading into the bye week. Since Week 5, Cousins' 18 TD passes are the most in the league, and he's had 163 pass attempts without an INT (the longest active streak in the NFL). The bye week comes at the perfect time for Minnesota because it returns in Week 13 with a Monday night showdown with the Seattle Seahawks, who currently hold the top wild-card spot in the NFC playoff picture.
Mike Evans, WR, Buccaneers: Though Evans didn't make his first catch Sunday until 57 seconds remained in the first half, he made an impact in the second half (three catches for 63 yards) in the Bucs' comeback effort. The Saints have been the only team that has really limited Evans this season (zero receiving yards vs. Saints in Week 5), but the veteran receiver still sits second in the NFL in receiving yards (993).
Julio Jones, WR, Falcons: The Falcons would be in the playoff picture if they had played THIS well all season. With back-to-back wins, this offense is firing on all cylinders. And in the middle of it all is Jones, who logged six catches for 91 yards on Sunday, including a 48-yard reception in the second quarter to set up a Falcons score.