Patriots Have the Best Record; Are the Browns Facing the Best Team in the NFL?

FOXBORO MA - OCTOBER 31: Tom Brady #12 of New England Patriots checks the clock with his coach Bill Belichick in the fourth quarter against the Minnesita Vikings at Gillette Stadium on October 31 2010 in Foxboro Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

It is Wednesday already, and that means that we'll find out if quarterbacks Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace make their triumphant returns to practice today or not. While that's an important topic, there's a more important topic I want to talk about: the possibility of Derek Anderson starting for the Arizona Cardinals this week. /sarc

We've discussed all of the pros and cons of Delhomme, Wallace, or Colt McCoy being named the starting quarterback for this Sunday's game against the Patriots. Each quarterback seems to have a decent number of fans in their corner, but overall it doesn't seem like a mutiny will form based on whoever Eric Mangini chooses. We'll just have to await his decision and deal with it.

In the mean time, the Browns have had two weeks to gameplan for the New England Patriots. They might have needed those two weeks, because at 6-1, the Patriots have a better record than the Jets, Steelers, Colts, Packers, Giants, Saints, Ravens, and all of the other teams in the NFL. No matter what personnel moves the Patriots make, including the shuffling out of star receiver Randy Moss, they always seem to remain on top. Does the Patriots' record dignify them as the best team in the league though?

Patriots' Offense:

  • Ranked 14th in the league in rushing (112.7 yards per game)
  • Ranked 16th in the league in passing (217.6 yards per game)
  • Ranked 19th in the league in offense (330.3 yards per game)
  • Ranked 29th in the league in time of possession (27:33 per game)
  • Ranked 2nd in the league in third down efficiency (46.4% success rate)
  • Ranked 1st in the league in points scored (29.3 points per game)

Patriots' Defense

  • Ranked 11th in the league in run defense (101.6 yards per game)
  • Ranked 31st in the league in pass defense (282.4 yards per game)
  • Ranked 28th in the league in defense (384.0 yards per game)
  • Ranked 22nd in the league in sacks (13 sacks)
  • Ranked 8th in the league in interceptions (9 INT's)
  • Ranked 14th in the league in fumbles recovered (4 fumble recoveries)
  • Ranked 21st in the league in points allowed (22.0 points per game)

One thing that you'll notice is that the Patriots aren't particularly dominant in one area statistically, and if there is something teams can do pretty well against New England's defense, it is moving the ball through the air. Overall, the thing that makes the Patriots so good is that they play efficient and have the ability to plug anyone in and have them succeed.

Part of that efficiency comes at quarterback with Tom Brady, who remains one of the best in the game. At receiver, the Patriots no longer have Moss, but Brady has no problem getting the ball to players like Wes Welker, Deion Branch, and Aaron Hernandez.

More impressive is what they continue to do at the running back position. This season, they've already gone through Fred Taylor, Kevin Faulk, Sammy Morris. Faulk's injury seemed like it could be a blow at the time since he has always been their ultimate utility player, but in comes some guy named Danny Woodhead, who is now averaging 4.9 yards per carry and is an active threat in the passing game.

That doesn't even mention starter BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who has six rushing touchdowns and seems to be giving the Patriots the best ground game they've had in years. It helps explain why Brady has thrown less touchdowns (about 1.7 per game) while the Patriots are the highest scoring team in the league. Rob Ryan's creative defense might have worked against Drew Brees, but now a team like the Patriots will probably have studied that in the film room. It'll be interesting to see how each team adapts to what is thrown at them this week.

While I haven't seen reports on whether or not he'll play this week, the Patriots' offensive line just got better too with guard Logan Mankins ending his holdout.

Defensively, the Patriots are led by veteran Vince Wilfork up front. The unit has been good at defending the run this season, but I was intrigued by what the Minnesota Vikings' running game did against them in the first quarter this past Sunday. Here was the breakdown for Adrian Peterson quarter-by-quarter:

  • 1st Quarter: 13 carries, 59 yards (4.5 yards per carry)
  • 2nd Quarter: 5 carries, 9 yards (1.8 yards per carry)
  • 3rd Quarter: 7 carries, 24 yards (3.4 yards per carry)
  • 4th Quarter: 0 carries

I thought Peterson was on a roll in the first quarter, and I saw quite a few runs that I felt were along the lines of what Peyton Hillis excels at. He did have 12 carries the rest of the game, but it seemed like the Vikings failed to ride the hot hand. It might be tempting to throw against the Patriots, but they still feature an opportunistic defense.

Another player to consider in this week's game is kick returner Brandon Tate. The Browns have been outstanding at stopping returns, but Tate has returned two kicks for touchdowns.

For all of the impressive play that the Patriots have though, I still get the impression that they aren't viewed as the best team in the NFL. Personally, I even get the feeling that if somehow we beat the Patriots and the Jets, our victory over the Jets would be considered the bigger upset.

What do you think? Are the Browns facing the most complete team in football this week, or just a team that is temporarily holding the league's best record?

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