This Has Been One Boring Patriots Season

The Patriots' unrelenting dominance is making for a dull fall.

Photo via AP

Photo via AP

The Patriots have the best record in the AFC and hold a commanding two-game lead in the division. It’s not even Halloween, and all of the drama is gone.

In three games since Tom Brady returned from his Deflategate suspension, the Patriots have outscored their opponents by an average of 16 points. It looked like Sunday’s matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers was going to be competitive, but then Ben Roethlisberger tore his meniscus. As a two-time Super Bowl champion, Roethlisberger is one of the few quarterbacks in the league who’s even Brady’s peer. But Landry Jones started in his place, and the results weren’t pretty. The Patriots won 27-16, despite losing two fumbles and making an array of mistakes. They couldn’t give the game away, no matter how hard they appeared to try.

For every Patriots miscue—dropped passes on third down, missed extra-point, holding penalties—the Steelers matched them. Head coach Mike Tomlin had a brutal day, challenging an obvious Rob Gronkowski catch in the first half and opting to kick a 54-yard field goal while trailing by 11 points late in the fourth quarter.

With the Steelers game now behind them, there aren’t many attention-grabbers left on the Patriots’ schedule. This Sunday’s matchup against the Buffalo Bills almost qualified, but then they lost to the lowly Miami Dolphins Sunday. Buffalo allowed a staggering 454 yards of offense in the defeat.

In two weeks, the Patriots will face off with the Seattle Seahawks—a rematch of Super Bowl 49. That should be fun to watch, assuming the Seahawks don’t repeat their pathetic Sunday Night Football performance. The six remaining opponents on the Patriots’ schedule after that have a combined record of 16-25.

Lousy teams and uncompetitive contests are a league-wide epidemic. The NFL sent out a memo recently to explain its dramatic ratings decline, citing a “confluence of events,” including the contentious presidential election. Several other factors, such as the league’s apparent inability to adequately respond to domestic violence issues and the absences of several marquee players are almost certainly driving fans away as well. But it’s possible the biggest reason for the mass exodus of viewers is right there on your television almost every time you turn on a game: The product stinks right now.

The Patriots are usually above the fray, but that’s especially the case this year. The No. 2 team in the AFC right now is the Oakland Raiders, who haven’t experienced a winning season since 2002 and are pledging to move to Las Vegas. Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio is also one of Brady’s favorite punching bags. He’s 7-1 in his career against Del Rio defenses.

The 4-2 Broncos have lost two straight games and are playing an injured Trevor Siemian at quarterback. Their game against the Patriots Dec. 18 could be interesting—Brady is 2-7 in Denver—but it might not matter. New England could be blowing them away at that point. The Steelers also may be out of the picture for the No. 1 playoff seed if Roethlisberger is sidelined for much longer.

The Houston Texans and Kansas City Chiefs are also in the postseason picture. The Texans have lost their last three games at Gillette Stadium by an average of nearly 23 points, whereas the Chiefs fell to the Patriots in the AFC Divisional Round last season. For those keeping score at home, the Indianapolis Colts have an 11-12 record since they complained about Brady’s deflated footballs.

At this point, there isn’t any competition for the Patriots in the conference. And with Brady back in the lineup, there doesn’t appear to be a single team that can even give them a good game, either. The Patriots are exposing the lousiness of the league on a weekly basis. How’s that for some Deflategate karma?