Will the New England Patriots Go Undefeated This Year After Best Start Since 2015?

One week into October and only two teams are unbeaten in the NFL. If it is somewhat surprising to see the San Francisco 49ers sitting at 4-0, the identity of the other half of the undefeated duo is all too familiar.

Eight months on since winning Super Bowl LIII, the New England Patriots are 5-0 and in total control of the AFC East, with an 11th consecutive divisional title seemingly a formality.

For all their qualities, the Patriots aren't renowned for being fast starters and this is only the fourth time since Bill Belichick arrived in Foxborough they have won their first five games.

In 2004, New England won its first six games, before ending the season with a 14-2 record. Three years later, they completed the perfect regular season with a 16-0 record and in 2015 they won their first 10 games, before running out of steam and losing four of their next six games.

In fact, throughout the Belichick era forecasts of demise have been wheeled out as almost invariably New England lost in the opening weeks of the season, only for the Patriots to make a mockery of those predictions and embark on another blistering winning run.

This year, however, the dynamic is different. The Patriots have sprung out of the blocks and the question is no longer whether Father Time may finally be about to stop Tom Brady, but whether the six-time Super Bowl champions can go another season undefeated.

New England has the joint-second easiest schedule in the NFL and has used it to its advantage so far. It is no coincidence that of the five games the Patriots have won, the closest was against the Buffalo Bills, who are currently the only team with a record above .500 among New England's first five opponents.

Beginning with Thursday night, the Patriots host the New York Giants and the Cleveland Browns and travel to New Jersey to face the New York Jets.

Tom Brady, New England Patriots
Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots reacts against the Washington Redskins during the first quarter in the game at FedExField on October 6 in Landover, Maryland. Patrick McDermott/Getty

The Giants and the Browns are both 2-3, but are experiencing different kinds of growing pains. The G-Men have replaced Eli Manning with Daniel Jones under center, and while the rookie quarterback has shown promising signs, the absence of Saquon Barkley has clipped the wings of an already blunt offense.

The Browns, meanwhile, continue to struggle to live up to their preseason hype, with Baker Mayfield enduring a difficult second season in the NFL.

The Jets, meanwhile, have a legitimate claim at being the worst team in the league and it would be far from surprising to see New England travel to Baltimore on November 3 with an 8-0 record.

After the game against the Ravens, the Patriots have a bye in Week 10 and then face four games that will in all likelihood determine whether they can emulate their unbeaten run from 2007.

Belichick's men travel to Philadelphia in Week 11, before hosting the Dallas Cowboys the following week and traveling to Houston to play the Texans in Week 13.

They then welcome the Kansas City Chiefs in Foxborough in Week 14 in a rematch of last season's AFC Championship Game.

The two teams are expected to meet at the same stage this season and the matchup at Gillette Stadium could well determine who will finish as the top-ranked team in the AFC.

Aside from a home game against the Bills, the remaining three weeks of the season are little more than a cakewalk for the Patriots, who play the Cincinnati Bengals on the road and the Miami Dolphins at home.

As was the case in 2007, the Patriots will have a bye in Week 10 and as was the case in 2007, three of their remaining seven games are on the road. Historical omens aren't the only reason for optimism in New England.

Tom Brady, New England Patriots
Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots calls out instructions at the line during the first half of the AFC Championship Game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on January 20 in Kansas City, Missouri. The two teams meet in Week 14 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Peter G. Aiken/Getty

New England's point differential currently stands at +121, the second-best scoring margin in the NFL era since the 1970 merger, behind only the 1999 St. Louis Rams, who boasted a +123 point differential at the same stage of the season.

However, while The Greatest Show on Turf obliterated opponents on the back of a high-octane offense, the Patriots rely on a suffocating defense that could legitimately be considered one of Belichick's finest units.

New England has the best defense in the league, allowing a meager 6.8 points per game so far.

To put the unit's dominance into context, the Patriots defense ranks first in the NFL in terms of points and yards allowed, third-down conversion, sacks, interceptions, takeaways, first-downs allowed, passing yards and passing touchdowns allowed.

On the other side of the ball, the Patriots average 31 points per game but have looked rustier than figures suggest. The void left by Rob Gronkowski's retirement is yet to be properly filled and the Patriots' receiving corps remains worryingly thin.

At the same time, New England ranks 11th in total offense and sixth in passing offense and betting against Brady and Belichick remains an almighty gamble.