Patriots still team to beat in AFC East? Devin McCourty has candid response originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
The New England Patriots have won the AFC East in 11 consecutive seasons, but that streak is in serious danger of ending in the 2020 NFL campaign.
The Pats enter Sunday afternoon's must-win Week 8 showdown against the division-leading Buffalo Bills with a 2-4 record. A loss to the Bills would put the Patriots 3.5 games behind the division lead.
New England has overcome plenty of adversity during its nearly two-decade reign over the league. But the Patriots have never been 2-4 this late in the season. They've also lost three consecutive games for the first time since 2002. They haven't been in third place or worse in the division at this stage of the season since 2008.
Based on the team's lackluster play of late and the historical notes listed above, there aren't a ton of reasons to feel confident in the Patriots' ability to dig themselves out of this hole.
Patriots safety Devin McCourty wasn't afraid to admit that, at the moment, New England is not the best team in the AFC East.
“They’re first in the division. We’re 2-4. So I definitely wouldn’t call us the team to beat this year," McCourty said Wednesday in a video press conference. "I know, me personally, I talk about it every year, it doesn’t matter what’s happened here in the past. I’ve always said that when you talk about the Super Bowls won in the early 2000s, that doesn’t have anything to do with us. Super Bowls after 2010, they have nothing to do with us.
“I would say right now, we’d be crazy to think coming into the game that we’re the team to beat. They’re No. 1. They’re gonna be a huge challenge for us on the road. The top team, we’ve got to really bring our A-game coming off three straight losses. I think, for us, our backs are against the wall. We’ve got to go out there and play well.”
The Patriots have dominated the Bills for the last 20 years, including a seven-game win streak dating back to the 2016 season. All of those wins came with Tom Brady as the starting quarterback, though. He's no longer with the team, and his replacements -- mostly Cam Newton, with Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer also getting snaps -- have failed to impress through six games.
New England's passing attack has thrown the fewest touchdowns (three) in the league, while also tallying the fifth-fewest passing yards (197.2) per game.
If the Patriots are going to right the ship and turn their season around Sunday versus a quality Bills defense, they must see a quick and substantial improvement in the pass game.