Do the New England Patriots have the greatest defense of all time?

Though it seems premature to grant them that honor five games into a new season, it might be impossible to make any other case heading into Thursday night’s Giants-Patriots TV attraction (8:20 p.m., Fox/NFL Network.)

New England …

  •  Didn’t allow a touchdown to the high-powered Rams in last season’s Super Bowl. Its 13-3 win was a virtual clinic in how to disrupt and demoralize an offensive juggernaut. That performance set the tone for what was to come.
  • Didn’t allow a touchdown to the Pittsburgh Steelers in this season’s opener. That’s back when Ben Roethlisberger was in the lineup and Pittsburgh was considered playoff caliber.
  •  Shut out Miami 43-0, obviously making it three straight games without allowing a touchdown. This is where “extenuating circumstances” begin, with the Patriots playing virtual semi-pro opponents on a regular basis.
  •  Beat the Jets 30-14, but it was another defensive shutout. New York’s touchdowns come on a fumble return and an interception return. Make it four straight games without allowing an offensive TD.
  • Battled for a tough 16-10 win at Buffalo in a defensive struggle. Josh Allen of the Bills capped off a 75-yard third-quarter drive with a 1-yard run. That was the first touchdown allowed by the Pats since last season’s AFC title tilt in Kansas City.
  •  Coasted past Washington 33-7 last week, getting caught napping on their second defensive play from scrimmage when Steven Sims broke off a 65-yard run. The Pats threw a shutout after that.

In six games, only two offensive touchdowns allowed, with just one on a sustained drive. For bettors, it’s a 4-2 mark against the spread that would have been 5-1 if not for the Jets cheapies.

Whatever analytics you’re using, that’s going to grade out at historic levels. Allowing just two touchdowns in 360 minutes of game time doesn’t need much mathematical context. Even if you throw out virtual scrimmages versus the Dolphins, Jets, and Redskins, New England’s defense humiliated the Rams, Steelers, and Bills.

So, Daniel Jones and the New York Giants, that’s your next test! On paper, it’s a mismatch. On turf last week, Jones and the Giants gained just 211 yards on 3.4 yards-per-play against the Minnesota Vikings. Jones netted just 147 passing yards on 38 attempts (a low 3.9 per-pass average).

What might Tom Brady (also historically great) do against the Giants defense? Probably whatever he wants. New York allowed 494 yards to Dallas, 499 yards to Tampa Bay, and 490 yards to Minnesota.

Betting markets have hopped between New England -16¹/₂ and the Giants +17 most of the week. The public may have trouble resisting Tom Brady against a soft defense. Sharps will take the big ugly dog for value when the key number of 17 is in play, hoping for a flat favorite.