COMMENTARY | It's hard to believe that an undefeated team might be underrated, but the New England Patriots may be the exception to the rule this season.
The Patriots keep winning games and all anyone wants to talk about are the other undefeated teams.
They don't have a suffocating defense like the Seattle Seahawks or Kansas City Chiefs, nor an explosive offense like the New Orleans Saints or Denver Broncos, but what the Patriots do have is balance. Their rushing offense (11) and scoring defense (6) are among the better ones in the league through the first quarter of the season.
Ironically--or not, given the injuries--the team's passing offense is a middle-of-the-pack unit (17).
And yet, somehow, the Patriots are considered underdogs (-1.5) in their Week 5 game against the Bengals. Though the game is in Cincinnati, and that comes with an automatic -3 advantage for the home team, the Patriots have two more wins and a far better point differential on the year, +32 to even. Apparently, that's not enough to offset the home-field spread.
The injury to Vince Wilfork aside, the Patriots are only going to get healthier. Both Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola are due back in the next couple weeks, and Shane Vereen will be good to go for the stretch run. The trio adds another dynamic to the offense and should help Tom Brady get back on track. And when he does, the offense will be just as dangerous as ever.
If the Patriots can effectively replace Wilfork--no small task--they're among the top teams in the league. Stevan Ridley got back on track with a 4.7 YPC average against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 4, and LaGarrette Blount and Brandon Bolden both provided effective changes of pace.
After Cincinnati, the Patriots welcome the Saints to town. It will be a true test of just how good both teams are. Brady is beginning to find a rapport with his rookie receivers, especially Kenbrell Thompkins, and the defense continues to impress, holding the high-powered Falcons to just 10 points through three quarters on Sunday.
Many had Atlanta as a favorite to make this year's Super Bowl. If this wasn't a statement game, there aren't many to be had in the NFL this year.
Should they handle Brees and the offseason darling Bengals the same way they handled Matt Ryan's Falcons, perhaps some respect will finally find its way to New England.
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