The Buzz:The Patriots sit atop the AFC East and are tied for first place in the AFC with an 8-2 record. Since QB Tom Brady's return from suspension in Week 5, the Pats are averaging 32 points per game with their only loss coming on Sunday Night Football to the Seattle Seahawks in Week 10.
The Staples: Brady, debatably the best quarterback in NFL history, has been extremely effective in his shortened season, leading the No. 6 passing attack in the league. Through six games, the four-time Super Bowl champion has thrown for 1,915 yards, 16 touchdowns and one interception, while completing 70.4% of his passes for a rating of 123.3. Last week against San Francisco, the 17-year vet tossed four touchdowns en route to a 30-17 victory.
Brady's go-to receiver is TE Rob Gronkowski, who leads the team with 540 receiving yards on 25 catches. The 6'6", 265-pounder is averaging a league-best 21.6 yards per catch and has also found the end zone three times. Gronk did not play last week against the 49ers (chest) and his status for this week is unknown. A full injury report will be released Wednesday.
Blount Force Trauma:RB LaGarrette Blount has been the bell cow for this Patriots ground game, rushing for 802 yards (No. 8 in the NFL) off 201 carries, an average of 20 rushes per game. Blount is averaging 4.0 yards per carry and leads the NFL with 12 rushing touchdowns. The 6'0", 250-pounder has recorded four 100-yard rushing games, the latest coming in Week 11 with 124.
The Anchors:CB Malcolm Butler made a name for himself with a game-sealing interception in Super Bowl 49 and hasn't looked back. In his second season as a starter, Butler leads the team in passes defended (11) and has an interceptions. The West Alabama product is also the Patriots' fifth leading tackler with 44.
Second-year DL Trey Flowers is New England's most effective pass rusher — he leads the team in sacks (4) and QB hurries (9). Flowers, who only appeared in one game his rookie season, is tied for second on the team with five tackles for loss. Additionally, the Arkansas product has racked up 24 tackles.
Reliable Tacklers: The Patriots secondary may be in the middle of the pack in terms of yards per game allowed (No. 15 in the NFL), but they are good at bringing the ballcarrier down. Four of the defense's top five tacklers are members of the secondary with S Patrick Chung leading the charge with 60. CB Logan Ryan and S Devin McCourty rank second and third with 55 and 53 total tackles, respectively. The only player in the top five who is not a part of the secondary is ILB Dont'a Hightower, who ranks No. 4 with 49.