Thanks to the Green Bay Packers, Denver Broncos and Cincinnati Bengals being on bye weeks, there were only two teams putting their undefeated records on the line. The New England Patriots and Carolina Panthers both delivered.
The Patriots, who overall have had a pretty easy road thus far, were tested for the first time against an excellent New York Jets defense. Ryan Fitzpatrick didn’t make his usual mistakes and Darrelle Revis meant the Patriots struggled in getting big plays. But after Nick Folk put the Jets up by four early in the fourth quarter, the cracks turned into wide gaps for the Patriots to go through, as Tom Brady tossed two touchdown passes to Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola, which the Jets couldn’t recover from.
The Patriots don’t make mistakes this season. They avoided running the ball because there’s no point against the Jets. They actually played through a lot of empty formations (no backfield) in the fourth quarter. They dropped back to pass on 90.9% of the plays, and Brady delivered. He posted a 98.2 QBR in the 4th quarter as his receivers finally stopped dropping passes. Five of their six dropped passes came in the first three quarters. But the Patriots of 2015 don’t let these things rattle them.
The Panthers don’t look as impressive, but they’re 6-0 as well. The defense held the Philadelphia Eagles to reasonable numbers and despite Cam Newton throwing three interceptions, he threw for one TD and ran for another, while Mike Tolbert scored two as well (one receptions, one rushing). Jonathan Stewart ran for 125 yards on 24 carries and the Panthers have now won 10 consecutive regular season games, dating back to last season’s impressive finish that got them into the playoffs despite a 3-8-1 start.
The Panthers haunted Sam Bradford with five sacks, all without using more than a four-man pass rush. When the Panthers did blitz Bradford, he was 1-of-7 for 0 yards and an interception. It was the 7th time of Newton’s career in which he threw at least three interceptions, and it was the first time the Panthers won despite of that, once again showing just how good their defense is this season.
We’re going to have at least one team less in the undefeated group after next week. The Packers and Broncos face off in an interesting showdown between Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers. The Broncos have the best defense in the NFL according to the numbers, but they’ve faced some weak teams. Rodgers is supposedly the best in the NFL, but has struggled over the last two or three games. Manning has looked terrible all season long.