Halfway there, Baby. The Pats return from the bye, right where they left off, on top of the division. Somehow they managed to take a slight dip in the rankings while they were resting, healing up, and cleaning gutters. This was mostly due to Cold Hard Football Facts dropping them a full four points. Go figure. In spite of their average assessment of the state of the Patriots, I'm feeling pretty good about this year's team - for where they're at now and for the positive direction I believe they're heading in. Sitting in the 6-8 range sounds about right.
Let's look ahead to the upcoming Week 10 action among the top teams in the AFC.
In the AFC East, the Patriots (5-3) play the Bills (3-5) in Foxborough. The Jets (3-5) return from their bye with a trip to Seattle to face the Seahawks (5-4) and Miami (4-4) will host the Titans (3-6).
The league-darling Broncos (5-3) face the Panthers (2-6) in Carolina, the Ravens (6-2) host the Raiders (3-5), and the Texans (7-1) face the Bears (7-1) in what looks to be a terrific Sunday night matchup in Chicago.
Shutdown Corner (Yahoo! Sports) ranks them 6th: The Patriots picked up cornerback Aqib Talib in a bye week trade with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. New England dealt a 2013 fourth-round pick for Talib, who will have to sit out one more game of a four-game suspension for violating the league's policy against performance-enhancing drugs (Adderall). Talib is a low-risk, high-reward acquisition for the Patriots, and his addition, along with a healthy Steve Gregory, should help their struggling pass defense.
NFL.com experts rank them 6th.
The AP Pro32 ranks them 6th.
Pete Prisco (CBS Sports) ranks them 6th: They come off their bye week with a firm grasp of the AFC East. That won't change in the second half.
Pro Football Weekly ranks them 6th: Will Talib be the answer to the secondary’s woes?
Don Banks (SI) ranks them 7th: The Patriots head into their second half with decent momentum, and I'll be surprised if there's more than two losses ahead over the final eight games. Doing the math, that would put New England at 11-5 and once again ruling the AFC East as Bill Belichick and crew take yet another shot at earning that elusive fourth ring.
Pro Football Talk ranks them 7th: With Aqib Talib coming to town, it’s probably wise to lock up the muskets. Allegedly.
WEEI ranks them 7th: Give the Patriots credit for upgrading at a position that was a serious weakness. The Aqib Talib acquisition has the potential to be a difference-maker as to whether the team reaches the Super Bowl or not.
Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News) ranks them 7th: Leading rusher: Stevan Ridley The Patriots have been used to a committee approach, and that won’t change, but Ridley is the best difference-maker they have in the backfield.
Patriots Football Weekly ranks them 7th.
National Football Post ranks them 8th: The Patriots could roll up some points (again) this week with the Bills coming to Foxborough.
Peter King (SI) ranks them 8th: The problem with setting the bar where Tom Brady has set it is the shades of greatness. Brady is on pace for 32 touchdowns, six interceptions, 4,818 passing yards, 65.3 percent completions and a 100.6 rating. Every one of those five statistical categories but the interceptions (he had 12 last year) would be worse than last year. Incredible.
Elliot Harrison (NFL.com) ranks them 8th: It was one of those "double whammy" bye weeks. No football for New England Patriots fans ... and a huge groan from the 20 billion fantasy owners who have Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Stevan Ridley, Wes Welker or Aaron Hernandez. Waiver wire, baby, waiver wire. Who doesn't love starting some spare tight end (who catches two balls) over Gronk (who catches two touchdowns)? Next up for the Pats: the struggling Buffalo Bills.
ESPN ranks them 9th: Stevan Ridley is on pace to become the fourth Patriots running back ever to rush for more than 1,400 yards in a single season and the first since Corey Dillon.
Cold Hard Football Facts ranks them 12th: The Pats have finished each of their last two seasons on eight-game winnings streaks. In other words, Belichick's boys are still completely capable of being a 12 or 13-win team in 2012.
AVERAGE RANK: 7.3 (- .02)