By Danny Cox
The New England Patriots are 8-2 after a six-game winning streak got them back into their old ways and has them looking like the defending Super Bowl champions. While injuries have plagued the team this year, the Patriots haven’t let that stop them from dominating the AFC East and looking like true contenders.
Wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell working on return to the field
New England has one remaining injured reserve spot from which a player can return to play again in 2017, and it may end up belonging to wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell. He recently posted on his Instagram page that he is “missing that feeling” and working on coming back to play again this year.
A knee problem sent him to injured reserve during the season-opening loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. The team is planning on re-evaluating his status this week, and he’s hoping that his progress will be enough to bump him back onto the active roster. If the team doctors don’t feel as if he has advanced enough, Mitchell may end up back on injured reserve, which would ultimately end his second season in the NFL.
While Tom Brady has a number of great targets on offense, he would love to have back a receiver with which he developed a great relationship with last season.
Rex Burkhead still has the faith of the team
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is not one to accept mistakes well, and he deals with them in a way that will have players thinking twice about doing it again. A couple of weeks ago, running back Mike Gillislee was benched for close to two full quarters after fumbling the ball against the New York Jets.
On Sunday in Mexico City, Rex Burkhead also fumbled the ball in the first quarter, but he lucked out when teammate Dwayne Allen scooped it up to keep possession with the Patriots. Had the team lost the football, it may have ended up being much worse for Burkhead, but offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels didn’t take it out too hard on him.
Burkhead did have only four more carries after that mishap with the fumble, but he wasn’t shunned to the sideline.
Pats lead the league in fewest turnovers this season
New England is playing some excellent football on both sides of the field, and there is a lot that has contributed to their 8-2 record, but it is hard to take your eyes off of their turnover numbers. In 10 games they have committed just five turnovers, which is two fewer than the Kansas City Chiefs who have seven on the season.
Tom Brady has two interceptions and the team also has three lost fumbles, but that’s it.
The Patriots have a turnover differential of Plus-8 with 13 takeaways, and it is really hard to lose any game when you’re constantly winning the turnover battle. That kind of ball security is what every NFL team dreams of, and mixing that with the talent of the Patriots is a dangerous combination.