The first thing that jumps out at me this week is that I have to actually scroll down the page a bit to even find the Patriots in the Power Rankings columns. Yeesh. Here's where New England stands.
The AFC North is just a notch above with Cincinnati and Baltimore holding 6-2 records and Pittsburgh right up there with them at 6-3. Houston, also at 6-3, has a two-game lead in the AFC South.
This puts that much more pressure on the Patriots' Week 10 matchup against their division rival Jets. It's not to say the Patriots are doomed if they lose, it just that any division loss could take them out of the driver's seat when it comes to playoff positioning.
Let me add there's nothing more frustrating in weeks 15-17 than watching Conference games with one eye squinted shut and willing other teams to lose so our team can have a shot at the post-season. A painfully tortuous strategy. So much better to be in the position of other teams having to beat New England than putting a Wildcard spot on the proverbial Sage Rosenfels helicopter or on the tiniest of chances that the number 1 seed will decide it doesn't need to rest its starters, and will play hard to beat the team we need to lose, so our team can slip in the playoff backdoor instead of them. This is where that unnerving eye-twitch condition comes from.
The good news is that the Patriots, right now, sit atop the AFC East and control their own destiny. No matter how many Ron Borges articles are written to have you believe otherwise, they are still masters of their domain heading into Week 10. Live in the moment. Enjoy it. Appreciate it.
Personally, I'd just rather not have to scroll down any further to read the rankings next Tuesday.
Brian Billick (Fox Sports) ranks them 6th: It is official, the New England Patriots' defense is bad. Last year, this young unit looked like it was getting better as the season progressed, but they haven't parlayed that growth to this season, and quite frankly, they've gotten worse. Tom Brady's play can cover up a lot of deficiencies, but this may be even too much for him. They have a favorable lineup of games coming up, but must beat the Jets this weekend or they will be looking at a wild-card spot.
The Sporting News ranks them 7th: Hot hand: TE Rob Gronkowski. After a quiet few games, Gronkowski is once again proving to be Tom Brady's favorite target in clutch situations when Wes Welker is drawing heavy coverage.
Don Banks (SI) ranks them 8th: There was some sentiment expressed Tuesday that the team's release of Albert Haynesworth would serve as a warning shot over the heads of the rest of the underachieving Patriots, but I don't buy it. New England over the years has gotten rid of handfuls of veterans who weren't performing, and I don't think the banishment of Haynesworth, who was contributing absolutely nothing, has any shock value at all in Foxboro. As midseason moves go, this wasn't Randy Moss being handed his walking papers.
Pro Football Weekly ranks them 8th: Ochocinco got a season-high five targets, but zero catches.
Joel Thurman (SB Nation) ranks them 10th: Three losses for New England but it's not like they're coming against scrubs -- the Bills (5-3), Steelers (6-3) and Giants (6-2) are very good teams. That defense, though, is a problem.
Elliot Harrison (NFL.com) ranks them 10th: The streak is over, but the season isn't. Tom Brady's NFL record 31 straight regular-season wins at home was one of the more impressive feats in sports, no question. But the long and the short of the situation is the fact that the Patriots are in the thick of a division race that could go to the Jets or Bills. The former is hot right now, while the latter already is one up on New England in the head-to-head. It's almost weird that the Jets and Patriots hook up in Week 10. This game should be a Week 16 or 17 matchup.
National Football Post ranks them 10th: Some concern in New England? There should be when your defense is ranked 32nd in the NFL.
Cold Hard Football Facts ranks them 10th: Although he’s on pace for a career-worst 20 interceptions, Tom Brady still has a passer rating of 100.0 (actually 99.99, which is even weirder considering the complexity of the formula). The only QB to throw 20+ picks with a rating over 100 was Kurt Warner … in the season he and the Rams lost to Brady and the Rams in the Super Bowl.
WEEI ranks them 11th: The personnel in the secondary is just not good enough to compete with the good offensive teams in the NFL. This isn’t anything new; the Patriots haven’t been good defensively for a few seasons now. It’s certainly time to start to question Bill Belichcik and the moves the Patriots have made on defense. Albert Haynesworth was an absolute failure. He played in just 132 snaps and made three measly tackles. On offense, Tom Brady doesn’t have a receiver who can stretch the field.
ESPN ranks them 12th: The Patriots are in danger of losing three straight for the first time since 2002.
Pete Prisco (CBS Sports) ranks them 13th: They lost a home game with Tom Brady at quarterback. That's news in itself. This is a team with flaws suddenly.
AVERAGE RANK: 9.0 (-4.5)