Happy Thanksgiving to the best fans in the NFL!
It's a blessing to be able to host family and friends for the holiday, but it prevented me from posting the rankings in advance of Thursday's Patriots-Jets game. So, if possible, ignore last night's 49-19 best-game-ever against Rexy's crew when reviewing the rankings. Peter King didn't know what was coming but now he sure looks like a prophet: "This is a ridiculously explosive team..." indeed.
Sunday will be a much-needed day of rest for New England (8-3) and the NY Jets (4-7). The Houston Texans (10-1) also played Thursday night, so let's take a look at the rest of the competition around the AFC in Week 12.
The Buffalo Bills (4-6) travel to Indianapolis to face the Colts (6-4). The Colts are 4-1 at home so this could be an interesting game. The Dolphins (4-6) host the Seattle Seahawks (6-4) with the huge advantage of not having to travel to the West coast. Also the Seahawks are 1-4 on the road so the Fins have a chance to save the AFC East from a Seattle sweep. Yeesh.
I've already chalked up a win for the Denver Broncos (7-3) who play the Kansas City Chiefs (1-9) at Arrowhead Stadium. With any luck it will be a trap game for the division leader (please, please, please). The Pittsburgh Steelers (6-4) will play the Browns (2-8) in Cleveland.
Enjoy the anxiety-free slate of matchups this weekend. We're getting a lot of winterizing yard work done for Mom tomorrow so Sunday will be free for guilt-free game watching, powered by tasty leftovers. Hopefully there will be lots of highlights shown from Thursday's games too.
Peter King (SI) ranks them 1st: No Gronk for a while, but I'd be surprised if the Patriots don't score enough to beat the Jets Thanksgiving night. This is a ridiculously explosive team, with a defense that played better Sunday than it had in recent weeks. I had to think about the top of the rankings for some time Sunday night, and the fact that no one can stop the Patriots tipped the scales. In their last three games: nine takeaways, two defensive touchdowns (both Sunday), 47.0 points per game.
Shutdown Corner (Yahoo! Sports) ranks them 3rd: Losing Rob Gronkowski for perhaps the remainder of the regular season undoubtedly hurts, but the Patriots are fully capable of adapting and should get Aaron Hernandez back for the stretch run. With Tom Brady at quarterback, New England's offense will be fine and they'll get Gronk back in January.
Pro Football Talk ranks them 3rd: Rob Gronkowski was more likely to break an arm spiking the football than serving on the PAT team.
Pro Football Weekly ranks them 5th: Opportunistic "D" now has 13 INTs and 14 fumble recoveries.
Pete Prisco (CBS Sports) ranks them 5th: Losing Rob Gronkowski takes a big chunk out of their offense. But as long as Tom Brady is throwing passes, they will be fine.
WEEI ranks them 5th: No Gronk will hurt, but the tight end position is one of great depth on the Patriots and they should be able to make do until he returns. The Patriots are a ridiculous plus-20 in giveaway/takeaway margin with 27 forced turnovers and just seven giveaways.
NFL.com experts rank them 5th.
Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News) ranks them 5th: Thankful for: Resourceful Tom Brady. Brady has proved throughout his career it doesn’t really matter what kind of offense he’s running or to whom he’s throwing. Now without Rob Gronkowski, he’ll simply keep finding others for big plays.
Joel Thorman (SB Nation) ranks them 5th: The Patriots are averaging 42.5 points per game on their four-game winning streak. Think about that -- averaging 42.5 points. When was the last time your team scored 42 points? Sunday's 59-pointer didn't hurt.
Cold Hard Football Facts ranks them 6th: The Pats used 35 second-half points to send Andrew Luck and the Colts home 59-24 losers. Luck threw three picks, two of which were returned for TDs. New England moved up three spots to No. 2 in Scoreability.
Don Banks (SI) ranks them 6th: The loss of Rob Gronkowski for at least a month won't be devastating unless he's limited and not his typical productive self in the playoffs. But let's not overlook the ridiculously versatile weapon that Julian Edelman emerged as in the blowout against the Colts, returning two punts for 117 yards and a touchdown, catching five passes for 58 yards and a touchdown and rushing once on a reverse that went for 47 yards and a near touchdown. His 222 all-purpose yards make a strong argument the Patriots will be able to survive quite nicely until Gronk returns to form.
Elliot Harrison (NFL.com) ranks them 6th: All those people who flooded my Twitter inbox saying the Indianapolis Colts were gonna win? Crickets. Some might feel Denver is the best team in the AFC, but the Broncos have yet to pull off a 59-point demolition like the New England Patriots. Not to mention the fact that Denver was soundly beaten in New England earlier this season. Thus, the Pats get this spot, and the Broncos get ... [7th]
National Football Post ranks them 6th: The Pats used 35 second-half points to send Andrew Luck and the Colts home 59-24 losers. Luck threw three picks, two of which were returned for TDs. New England moved up three spots to No. 2 in Scoreability.
Brian Billick (Fox Sports) ranks them 6th: Winning on the road is a tough task in the NFL, but it's just as noteworthy when a team dominates at home against a team they should beat. It sounds odd, but a championship-caliber team handles its business when it is supposed to.
The AP Pro32 ranks them 7th.
ESPN ranks them 8th: Injured Rob Gronkowski is the first tight end in NFL history to record double-digit TDs in three consecutive seasons.
Patriots Football Weekly ranks them 8th.
AVERAGE RANK: 5.3 (+ 2.4)