Patriots’ easy schedule means still no test for the defense in Week 6

New England Patriots, New York Giants

The New England Patriots have the NFL’s best defense statistically, and key injuries for the Giants means they won’t be tested in Week 6 either.

The New England Patriots are 5-0, which isn’t surprising, beyond the way they’ve gotten there. They have the league’s best defense, allowing the fewest points by a substantial margin (6.8 per game), the fewest passing yards per game and the third-fewest rushing yards per game. In Week 3, all 14 of the Jets’ points came defensively, so the Patriots’ defense has been even better from a points allowed perspective than it already looks.

It helps, of course, that the Patriots have yet to really be tested across the first five weeks of the season. Because the Pittsburgh Steelers had a healthy Ben Roethlisberger in Week 1, New England’s defense gets some credit for allowing just three points in that game. But since then, they’ve faced the rest of the AFC East (Miami Dolphins, New York Jets and Buffalo Bills), quarterbacked by Ryan Fitzpatrick/Josh Rosen, Luke Falk (starting for an injured Sam Darnold) and Josh Allen/Matt Barkley (after Allen suffered a concussion), respectively. In Week 5, they faced the Washington Redskins with Colt McCoy starting and seeing his first action since suffering a broken leg last season.

New England faces the New York Giants on a short week Thursday night and the injury list already suggests the Patriots won’t face much of a test.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Giants have listed:

  • Running Back Saquon Barkley (ankle) – Unlikely to play
  • Tight End Evan Engram (knee) – Unlikely to play
  • Wide Receiver Sterling Shepard (concussion) – Out
  • Running Back Wayne Gallman (concussion) – Out

With Barkley likely out and Gallman out, the Giants will be down to Jon Hilliman and Elijhaa Penny as their top two running backs. Golden Tate’s return last week softens the blow of Shepard’s absence, but behind him is Darius Slayton and Cody Latimer at wide receiver. Behind Engram, the Giants will be down to blocking tight end Rhett Ellison. In what was already going to be a challenging matchup, good luck to rookie quarterback Daniel Jones with that depleted supporting cast.

After this week the Patriots gets the Jets, albeit with Darnold back, in Week 7 and the reeling Cleveland Browns in Week 8. So the next real test their defense stands to get comes in Week 9 against the Baltimore Ravens, though even Lamar Jackson has fallen off a bit since a fast start.

Next: 5 candidates to replace Jay Gruden as Redskins head coach

There’s no denying the Patriots have a lot of talent defensively, but they’ve not be truly tested in a while now. For at least the next couple weeks, that won’t be changing as the schedule stays pillow soft.

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