NEW YORK — If you can’t tell by now, you’re in for a treat when the Patriots begin their second straight game against the New England Patriots on Sunday night.
In the NFL’s preseason opener in Buffalo, the Patriots suffered a brutal blow in the first quarter, surrendering a 26-0 lead to an injured Andrew Luck.
New England has not been in this kind of funk since Week 1.
But what if the Patriots were to lose another one, a season ending injury?
What if this season’s New England team is not as good as the ones that lost to the Bills in the opener?
That’s what former Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who coached the team to a franchise-record six AFC title games from 2004-06, and his former players and analysts want to know.
“If you’re not a fan of them, then you’re a fan and I’m sure you’re going to feel like you’ve got the Patriots going against you,” Belichick said.
“And I know that’s the case.”
After all, this season hasn’t been all that great for the Patriots, who are 0-3.
They were swept by the Colts in the divisional round of the playoffs.
They finished last in the AFC East with an average score of 27.1 points per game.
But the Patriots have been a top-five team for much of the season, and that’s what makes Belichick and his team’s struggles even more puzzling.
Ahead of Sunday’s game, Patriots fans and analysts were asking how the team could be better and more consistent with a young roster, a defense that’s allowed the most points per drive in the NFL, and an offense that ranks last in scoring defense.
A lot of the players in this team are older, but they still have potential to be more productive, Belichick said, because of the experience.
Belichick is the last coach in the league to have an entire defensive unit that’s played in the Super Bowl, and he said he expects that team to play better than last season.
But how will this team respond to the changes in the Patriots’ defense?
The Patriots have not been as good on offense as they have been on defense.
They rank 29th in offense, 28th in scoring offense and 25th in passing offense.
The Patriots rank 28th and 31st in points scored per drive, and they rank 30th and 32nd in points allowed per drive.
New Orleans’ defense ranked 27th in the last season of the Brett Favre era.
New England’s offense also has some questions on the defensive side of the ball, too.
They have the league’s sixth-fewest points allowed, per Football Outsiders, and their offense is averaging just over 14 points per play.
Belichick said the Patriots would like to play with a little more energy and that he hopes his players would be able to adapt to the new personnel.
If you can see anything in the preseason game, that’s that they’re going in a different direction,” Belichick told NFL Network’s “NFL GameDay Morning.””
I think they’re a better football team.
They’re a lot better in the air.
They had a good effort.
They showed they were a much better football group than what we had.
They will be a better defense.
That’s the plan.
“New England is 3-6 and in a bad spot on defense, where the offense has scored only 17 points per contest and the defense has allowed an average of 19 points per outing.
The Bills were able to beat the Patriots in New Orleans in the regular season.
But this is the Patriots debut in Buffalo and the team has struggled with turnovers in recent weeks.
They’ve also been forced to give up too many touchdowns, allowing an average touchdown of 13.3 points per season.
If the Patriots can get to the line and hold New England to fewer than 17 points, the Bills will have to settle for a field goal.
They did that against the Colts last season, but the Patriots had more success when they used an extra point.
New York has a lot of issues on the offensive side of its offensive line, which is led by left tackle Nate Solder and right tackle Nate Orchard.
They lost center Bryan Stork to a season-ending injury in Week 2.
And they are without left guard Marcus Cannon, who is expected to miss the entire season with a torn ACL.
New York’s offensive line has been a problem all season.
Newest additions are right tackle Alex Boone, who missed the first two games because of a shoulder injury, and left guard Richie Incognito.
The Patriots had the league lead in sacks in 2016, but were in the middle of the pack in tackles for loss.
The offensive line is going to be a challenge for the Bills.