FOXBORO - We all know NFL statisics are malleable. We can shape them to say whatever we want and often they only tell half the story. Check this out: The Patriots are dead last in the NFL in total defense in terms of yards per game. They allow 416.3 total yards and 314.0 through the air. Second worst team in yards allowed? Well, no surprise. It's the Colts. They're 0-9 and allowing 406.1 yards per games, 260.0 through the air. And which team is 30th? That would be the Packers. They are 8-0. They're allowing 399.6 per game and, get this, 299.6 through the air. You can ascribe reasons that help explain all these teams. The Packers are so explosive, they get up on teams and a lot of the yardage totals are compiled in garbage time. The Colts? Well, they suck. The Patriots? A little of both. They've been ahead and teams have been forced to up-tempo it and take shots to try to keep pace. They've also been thrown all over in close games as well. Whatever the reason for the Patriots being 32nd in the most frequently cited measure of defense (by the way, Bill Belichick said this week that "points, turnovers and red zone" are the most important team stats in his mind), safety James Ihedigbo insists their time at the bottom is ending. "You never want to be last at anything in life," said Ihedigbo. "The fact that we're ranked 32nd in the league puts a nasty taste in our mouths and it's something - we're at the midpoint of the season - it's not something that has to change, it will change."This week, the Patriots play Ihedigbo'sold team, the Jets. He spent three seasons there, primarily as a special teams guy. With the Patriots, his role's been bigger. Starting in Week 5, the Patriots' win over the Jets, Ihedigbo's seen significant time. The time will grow more significant now as fellow safetyJosh Barrett has been put on injured reserve. "I definitely feel for him," said Ihedigbo. "It's something that's tough. You battle back from injury (Barrett had a broken thumb) and then have a tough calf injury like that at the end of the game. Tough for that to happen."Safety's been a big concern all season. The Patriots let steady James Sanders and inconsistent Brandon Meriweather go before the season. Now New England has a hobbled Patrick Chung back there as well."We'll definitely embrace the challenge (of playing the Jets)," said Ihedigbo. "It's a great opportunity this week coming up. Big game. Spotlight's definitely on us and people want to see what are the Patriots gonna do, are they gonna fold or are they gonna bounce back? It's definitely a statement game for us back in the secondary and I'll go out and say that it's a big game for us on our part."And the stat that tells no tales - wins and losses - will be the most important one after this one.
When Tom Brady returns to the Patriots following his four-game suspension, his team will be in sole possession of first place in the AFC East.
That became the reality as soon as the Jets fell to the Chiefs in Kansas City on Sunday, 24-3. The Jets committed eight turnovers in the loss to fall to 1-2.
The Bills and Dolphins each won their first games of the season on Sunday, taking down the Cardinals and Browns, respectively.
With the Patriots record at 3-0 following their win over the Texans on Thursday night, and with all three of their AFC East rivals sitting on just one win thus far, even if Bill Belichick's club was to fall to Rex Ryan and the Bills in Week 4, it would still be alone atop the division.
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Surely the Patriots would like to have a zero in the loss column when Brady returns. Regardless, to be in first place when Brady's Deflategate punishment is finished -- and having achieved that mark with two different starting quarterbacks -- has to be a point of pride for the organization . . . and a source of agita for those who doled out the punishment.
Must be Bills week.
After Rex Ryan's club put together an impressive win at home over the Cardinals, 33-18, it wasn't long before the Bills coach was yapping about the Patriots and their coach Bill Belichick.
Ryan was asked about the quarterback situation in New England since both Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett are dealing with injuries at the moment. Who might the Bills see when they visit Gillette Stadium?
"Look, I can sit back and say I don’t care who plays quarterback, cuz I know (Tom) Brady ain’t," he said. "I don’t care who plays quarterback; Steve Grogan can play quarterback. If Belichick’s playing quarterback, we’re coming after him. I promise you that."
There's no indication yet as to whether or not Garoppolo or Brissett will be unavailable for Week 4. When asked about his level of concern when it came to his quarterbacks, Belichick didn't say much during a conference call on Sunday.
Ryan, like the rest of us, will probably have to wait for the Patriots to release an injury report before he learns about the status of either young passer. And until then, he'll have to prepare for both.