The view from the top was nice while it lasted. Eh, the one-percenters are getting heat from all sides nowadays so maybe it's better to be in a less conspicuous, somewhat more humble, 2-7 rankings range. Maybe.
With the rest of the AFC East out of playoff contention, there is still plenty to watch for in Week 16, especially in the AFC. Out of the four division leaders, the Patriots (10-4) are the only team playing on the road this week, in Jacksonville against the Jaguars (2-12).
The Houston Texans (12-2) play the Minnesota Vikings (8-6) at Reliant Stadium, the Denver Broncos (11-3) host the Cleveland Browns (5-9), and the Baltimore Ravens (9-5) face the New York Giants (8-6).
Shutdown Corner (Yahoo! Sports) ranks them 2nd: Disappointing loss to the 49ers on Sunday, but the Patriots remain an elite team that will be a force to be reckoned with come January, even if they're likely to have to take their act on the road to Denver or Houston in order to advance to New Orleans and make a return trip to the Super Bowl.
Peter King (SI) ranks them 3rd: Not too fired up over Andy Dalton's chances to beat an angry New England team in a wild-card game. Now, if it were Andrew Luck, I wouldn't like his chances much either, but I would like the drama of him trying to atone for his Week 11 Foxboro debacle.
Don Banks (SI) ranks them 3rd: The uncharacteristic turnover spree was the most alarming facet of the home loss to San Francisco, because if you have that kind of sloppy game in the playoffs, you're throwing stuff in garbage bags at your locker the next day. The Patriots will win their final two games and finish 12-4, but that defeat Sunday night probably means New England faces playing in the first round of the playoffs and then having to win two road games to get to the Super Bowl.
Pro Football Weekly ranks them 3rd: Ridley’s ball-security issues returned in rare December loss.
Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News) ranks them 3rd: Brady led the charge to make it interesting against the Niners, even though other parts of the offense, the defense and the special teams broke down. That's pretty much why he is on the short list with Peyton Manning for league MVP. Now he'll need to deliver on the road in the playoffs.
Elliot Harrison (NFL.com) ranks them3rd: How do you figure the NFL in 2012? The world-beating New England Patriots -- authors of 59-24, 49-19 and 42-14 blowouts over the past month -- get their arses handed to them for a half. Then they mount a 28-point comeback for the ages. Then they revert back to being the Jags. So much for their spot atop the Power Rankings -- only lasted seven days. Drops, fumbles and Aaron Hernandez alligator arms all led to the beautiful showing you saw in the first half. In the end, it was just too big a hole to climb out of.
WEEI ranks them 3rd: The road to the Super Bowl got a little tougher, but the Patriots have Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. No team in the AFC will want to play New England once the playoffs begin. Putting up 31 points in a half against the best defense in the league without Rob Gronkowski is pretty impressive.
Brian Billick (Fox Sports) ranks them 3rd: The Patriots had previously won 13 straight games in the month of December and nearly pulled off a 28-point rally to win No. 14 before falling to the 49ers on Sunday.
Pete Prisco (CBS Sports) ranks them 4th: Lesson learned: They can't turn it over against good teams and expect to win. The 49ers game showed them that.
The AP Pro32 ranks them 4th.
NFL.com experts rank them 4th.
ESPN ranks them 4th: Tom Brady threw one touchdown pass and two interceptions Sunday night. He had 19 touchdowns and one interception in his previous seven games.
USA Today ranks them 4th: 49ers' loss was first time this season Patriots lost turnover battle.
National Football Post ranks them 4th: Tom Brady almost brought the Patriots back to pull off the win Sunday night.
Pro Football Talk ranks them 5th: Those who think Sunday night’s loss to the 49ers removes the Pats from Super Bowl consideration apparently don’t realize that the 49ers don’t play in the AFC.
Joel Thorman (SB Nation) ranks them 5th: Don't feel bad for the Patriots. They're still one of the five best teams in the NFL and have as good of a shot as anyone to win the Super Bowl. Don't over think the occasional loss.
Patriots Football Weekly ranks them 7th.
Cold Hard Football Facts ranks them 7th: NE has five Super Bowl appearances in the 21st century, but earned a first-round bye in each of those seasons. Unless Denver slips, the Pats won't be getting a free pass to the divisional round this year.
AVERAGE RANK: 3.9 (-2.6)