Lack of competition for Patriots likely means more AB

AP photo Antonio Brown hauls in his first TD reception as a New England Patriot Sunday at Miami.


We’re two weeks into the NFL season, and the New England Patriots are badly in need of some competition – somewhere.

The lack of that means the games continue to be secondary as the Antonio Brown saga contines. Sports Illustrated reported some more details on Antonio Brown’s bizarre – for lack of a better term – behavior, and that will likely still dominate the news feed. The Patriots did on Sunday what a few predicted they would do – throw to Brown early but sparingly, and it worked. For how long he’ll be around, which we still think may be awhile. The franchise, for better or worse, will let the league handle that.

You can’t really figure where the Patriots are, because the competition has been so weak. And it may not matter, because other than Pat Mahomes and the Chiefs, is anyone else out there? We’ve got 14 weeks left to see, and a contende may have fallen off the list when the Steelers Monday announced QB Ben Roethlisberger will have season ending elbow surgery.

Another semi-break fell the Patriots way when Jets announced Sam Darnold would be sidelined until further notice due to a bout with mononucleosis. Instead of Darnold, the Jets will likely have Trevor Siemian, their starter last night in Cleveland, at quarterback this Sunday in Foxborough. Plus, the Jets secondary is weak, and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady just has too many targets for them to cover.

You want competion? Circle the game on Sunday, Sept. 29. The Patriots will be at Buffalo. Yes, the Bills. It’s not saying a lot, but they may be the second best AFC East team because of their second-year quarterback Josh Allen and rookie defensive lineman Ed Oliver. Buffalo has Cincinnati at home this Sunday and could be 3-0 going into that game. Really, the Bills don’t look that bad and looks like they finally have a clue.

But all that may not matter. While the competition seems to get weaker, the Patriots get stronger. Belichick brought back prodigal son Jamie Collins this year, and all Collins has done is look somewhat even better at linebacker than he did during his first Patriot tenure.

“Jamie’s a very special player,” Belichick said during his Monday media conference call, also praising Collins’ versatility. “He’s very smart and instinctive and has a nose for the ball. … It’s exciting to have that type of player in your system.”

Defensively, the Patriots will devour subpar competition. Steeler stupidity and Miami’s mess in rebuilding may make that unit seem better than it really is these first two weeks, but the fact is New England in games that count hasn’t allowed a touchdown since last year’s AFC Championship Game vs. Kansas City.

“It’s pretty amazing what they’ve done,” Brady said Monday during his weekly Boston Radio paid gig. “I’ve gone against those guys every day in practice all training camp. It’s very challenging because they’ve got great players at all levels of the defense.”

If you are looking for a non-Brown problem, look at the offensive line and left tackle Isaiah Wynn’s latest injury and basic inability to stay on the field for long stretches. It’s open season on quarterbacks once again as injuries (add Drew Brees, out six weeks, to the list) keep mounting. Marshall Newhouse may be Brady’s new main protector.

Also, Stephen Gostkowski certainly hasn’t inspired confidence with his three misses on Sunday. But Belichick expressed confidence in him as well.

On the field, of course, Brown won’t be a problem as long as he’s here. “I thought he did a great job,” Brady said, “to come in on a short week and establish a role for himself. It’s easy to see why he’s been an All-Pro.”

But as more things bubble to the surface, Brown’s main story is off the field, and the fallout from all his accusers, including another alleged incident of sexual misconduct by an unnamed artist per SI.com

“I don’t really know anything about that, but I’ll just answer any questions about the game,” Belichick said of anything Brown, including whether he expects to hear from the NFL after main accuser Britney Taylor met with the league on Monday. “I’m not getting into anything else outside of that right now.”

But because of Brown’s polarizing impact, and the lack of competition, the game isn’t the story. It may not be for awhile, until the Patriots face a true challenge.

“I wouldn’t say we’re in mid-season form,” Brady said. “We’ve got a lot of football to go.”

Scary thought, isn’t it?