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Sunday Night Football Preview: The End of an Era?

Is the Patriots run as the NFL's premier dynasty coming to an end?

The New England Patriots have been the model of consistency in the NFL since winning their first Super Bowl in 2001. They've missed the playoffs exactly twice in the last 13 years, and haven't finished with a record below .500. They're averaging over 12 wins per season in this time span, including a 16-0 regular season in 2007.

The Patriots haven’t won the big one in a decade now, and the tides are starting to turn. Tom Brady is now a 37-year-old veteran quarterback and regressing in front of our very eyes. He has yet to throw for more than 249 yards in any game this season, has yet to throw for multiple touchdowns in any game, and is currently tied for the fifth worst Total Net Expected Points (NEP) among quarterbacks this season with a score of -11.92.

Based on NEP scores, Brady’s successes have predictably come in games the Patriots have won. He posted positive Passing NEP figures in each of the Patriot victories, and double-digit negative figures in each of the two losses. Clearly, Brady, who holds two of the top-six Passing NEP seasons since 2000, is on the decline now, and his task doesn't get any easier as the AFC’s lone undefeated team travels to Foxboro on Sunday Night for what should be an all-out war.

The Cincinnati Bengals come to town with a top-10 offense and the 3rd-best defense according to our team metrics. The Patriots have struggled mightily to pass the ball, which is something the Bengals have excelled against to this point, posting the second-best Defensive Passing NEP in the NFL. The Patriots struggle most with stopping opposing run games, performing 4.20 points below expectation against the run. Cincy’s two-headed running game led by Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill expect to have plenty of room to operate.

Are the Patriots doomed or can they overcome being one of three home underdogs in Week 5? Let’s see how this one shakes out.

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