Comparing this season's Patriots team to last season's was a big topic today on ESPN Boston Radio with Adam Jones, with Jones and co-host Drew Brooks going back and forth on the similarities between the teams (listen to their debate here). So if the teams are similar, should we expect a similar disappointing one-and-done ending to the season? Here's some of their conversation and their conclusion:
Jones: "I remember saying the same things about the Patriots last year that I am saying about them this year. So I went back and took a snapshot of both teams, where they stacked up statistically.
"Because anecdotally, I do feel like the 2011 Patriots are a better team. I think Rob Gronkowski is better, the tight ends are better. I think the pass rush, even without Andre Carter, is better. I think they are a better red zone defense. So in my mind's eye, I feel like this Patriots team is better and seems to be going into this postseason on more of a roll. But when you go back and look at it objectively, you wonder if that's really the case.
"In 2010, the Patriots were the no. 1 seed in the conference at 14-2 and went into the the playoffs on an 8-game winning streak. This year's installment of the Patriots: No. 1 seed in the AFC, 13-3, going into the playoffs on an 8-game winning streak. I'd call that a wash.
"How about offensively? Last year the Patriots led the NFL with 518 points. This year they're third at 513, scoring roughly 32 points per game. That's a wash too. Last year they were eighth in total yards, this year they're second. Last year passing they were 11th, this year second. Last year in rushing they were ninth. This year 20th. In terms of offense, slight improvements in the passing game, tapered off a little in the running game. ... I'd say this season's offense is better, especially passing.
"Looking at the defense. Last year, eighth in points against, just under 20 a game. This year they're 15th at just over 21. Total yards against they were 25th in 2010, 31st this year. Last year they were 30th against the pass, this year they were 31st. Last year 11th against the rush and 17th against the rush in 2011.
"So, they're a slightly better offensive team this season and slightly worse defensively compared to 2010. I think that's fair to say. We're talking small fluctuations. ...
"Anecdotally, I feel better about the team this year, and maybe that's more about the conference, maybe that's more about the AFC field than it is about the Patriots. But when focusing on the Patriots themselves in relation to the rest of the league, aren't they basically in the same boat? Aren't we talking about the same exact team we were talking about last year?
Brooks: "The difference is the competition. The difference is Ben Roethlisberger is hurt, that Matt Schaub goes down and the Texans are stuck with T.J. Yates. The difference is you don't have the Jets, you have the Broncos now. But when you look at the Patriots, they're the same team."
Jones: "So in other words the Patriots are treading water while the rest of the conference is getting worse, that's the takeaway."
Do you agree? If you are more confident in this season's Patriots team, is it more because you think they're better than last season or because the competition in the AFC is weaker? Let us know by voting in the poll and sharing your thoughts in the comments section.