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The New England Patriots’ defense isn’t just the best in the NFL this season. It’s one of the best of any season.
Through seven weeks in the 2019 NFL campaign, the Pats have allowed 48 points – 6.9 points per game. It’s been more than 40 years since any team has allowed fewer in that stretch of time. Only one other team this season gives up fewer than 15 ppg (the 49ers, 10.7).
In addition, no team has scored more points than the Pats (31.9 ppg), well ahead of the Ravens (30.6) and Chiefs (28.9).
The Patriots play host to the Cleveland Browns Sunday and are 13-point favorites via DraftKings.
"In 100 years, this is the best point differential we've had. Through 7 weeks, this is the best pass defense in the history of football. The defense has allowed 1 passing TD and have 18 INTs. They're allowing a passer rating of 35." — @getnickwrightpic.twitter.com/dvjUhDxa3e— FOX Sports (@FOXSports) October 22, 2019
For good reason, the Patriots are the prohibitive Super Bowl 2020 favorite, as low as +180 in some instances. Their odds to represent the AFC Conference in the Super Bowl are ridiculously low, at -240.
But when it comes to the ultimate goal – a Super Bowl – does their dominance through seven weeks mean much in NFL betting? Will it mean more if the Patriots are still No. 1 in all those facets through 16 games?
What History Tells Us
No. 1 From Start To Finish
Four teams in the Super Bowl era have led the NFL in points scored and points allowed through an entire season. The last team to accomplish that was the 1996 Green Bay Packers. Brett Favre and Reggie White led the Packers to a Super Bowl win against, ironically, Drew Bledsoe and the Patriots.
The one before that: the 1972 Miami Dolphins, who capped a perfect regular season with a Super Bowl title as well.
Before that, however, were the 1967 Rams, who went 11-1-2 before getting routed by the Packers in the conference championship, and the 1969 Vikings, who went 12-2 and got to the Super Bowl but lost to the Chiefs 23-7.
More rare is leading the league in both yards gained and yards allowed, but for the 2010 Chargers, it didn’t amount to much. They led the league in both categories but finished 9-7 and didn’t even make the playoffs.
Point Differential Through 7 Weeks
The Patriots’ 175-point differential is the most at this point since 1940. Only four other teams have had a differential at this point of 159 points or more. Two of those teams advanced to the championship, and only one took home a title. And that was back in 1941.
1941 Chicago Bears (+173): The George Halas-coached Bears finished 10-1 and won NFL championship, 37-9 over the Giants.
1948 San Francisco 49ers (+169): The Niners were in the AAFC, the precursor of the AFC before it joined the NFL. They went 12-2 but missed the playoffs, as only the two division winners qualified for the postseason and the Browns went 14-0 in the West.
1966 Dallas Cowboys (+160) : The Cowboys went 12-2 to win the East Division before falling to the Bart Starr and the Packers in the Ice Bowl for the NFL Championship. Green Bay went on to beat Kansas City 35-10 in the first Super Bowl.
2007 New England Patriots (+159) : The Pats went a perfect 16-0 in the regular season but couldn’t put a cap on a perfect season, falling to fall to Eli Manning and the Giants 17-14 in the Super Bowl.
Fewest Points Allowed So Far
Second squad to ever do it 🚫 pic.twitter.com/CO8JG9JdKk— New England Patriots (@Patriots) October 24, 2019
Only two teams have allowed fewer points through seven weeks than the Patriots. One of them won a title, the other didn’t even qualify for the playoffs.
1946 Cleveland Browns (34): The Browns, in the AAFC, went 12-2 for the league’s top record and edged the New York Yankees – yes, Yankees – 14-9 in the championship.
1977 Atlanta Falcons (46): The Falcons finished No. 2 in points allowed behind the Broncos, but also with the third-lowest scoring offense. Atlanta missed the playoffs with a 7-7 record.
How About Just Fewest Points?
2000 Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens allowed just 165 points, the fewest in a 16-game season. They won the Super Bowl. Through seven weeks, they had allowed 75 points, well over what the Pats have given up so far.
1986 Chicago Bears: They went 14-2 but were bounced 27-13 by the Redskins in the first round of the playoffs.
1976 Pittsburgh Steelers: The only team to allow fewer than 10 ppg. The Steelers gave up 138 points but in a 14-game season (9.9 ppg). The Steelers started that season 1-4, won nine in a row to make the playoffs but lost to the Raiders in the AFC Championship.
What Does It All Mean?
It means there are no guarantees. Utter dominance through seven weeks hasn’t translated to a Lombardi Trophy at the end. Of the three Super Bowl era teams noted above that crushed the first seven weeks, one got to the Super Bowl and lost, one lost in a conference title game and one missed the playoffs.
Keeping up the trend through an entire season has meant far more, but even then, only half of the teams who have led a league in points scored and allowed won it all, and just one of three of the best defenses of all time took a title.
So yes, hope is alive for the Chiefs, Ravens and the NFC’s elite, too.