Week 1 and the winning was easy. In the playoffs? Maybe not so much.
Back in September New England was ranked on top following a confident Week 1 win in Tennessee. The experts were impressed with Stevan Ridley and the young defense. Now it's January and the Patriots have finished with an average rank of 2.7 and owning the No. 2 seed in the AFC. The experts are still loving the offense and impressed with the team's shut-out of the Dolphins last Sunday. It's all been good.
And, of course, there's no hiding how much they'd all love a Broncos-Patriots conference championship.
Wild Card Weekend is going to be great. No pressure, no chance of injury. Just four terrific games to watch, while sizing up who the Pats will play next, from the comfort of our lucky chairs. Pats win this week no matter what.
Brian Billick (Fox Sports) ranks them 2nd: With the win and Texans loss, the Patriots jumped into the No. 2 seed for a first-round bye. New England's 28-0 win over the Dolphins on Sunday was the Patriots' first shutout since 2009.
Pro Football Weekly ranks them 2nd: Ridley fifth Pats rusher with 1,200 yards; first since 2004.
NFL.com experts rank them 2nd.
Elliot Harrison (NFL.com) ranks them 2nd: With the win and Texans loss, the Patriots jumped into the No. 2 seed and get a first-round bye. New England's 28-0 win over the Dolphins on Sunday was the Patriots' first shutout since 2009.
Pro Football Talk ranks them 2nd: 2013 Resolution: To finally find a deep threat who can stretch the field from the outside.
Don Banks (SI) ranks them 2nd: How important was it for the Patriots to sneak past Houston and claim that No. 2 seed and first-round bye in Week 17? Unlike in the NFC, the top two seeds have really been a benefit of late in the AFC. The conference's Super Bowl qualifier has been either a No. 1 or No. 2 the past five years in a row, and nine of the past 11 seasons. Only the 2006 Colts (No. 3 seed) and the 2005 Steelers (No. 6) bucked that trend from 2001 on. No matter who New England gets in the divisional round, it'll be a rematch from earlier in the season (the Pats lost at Baltimore in Week 3, beat visiting Indianapolis in Week 11 and routed Houston in Foxboro in Week 14).
The AP Pro32 ranks them 2nd.
Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News) ranks them 2nd: Grading the QB: Tom Brady (A+). Brady will have a healthy Rob Gronkowski for the playoffs, and will look to have better playoff performances than last year.
WEEI ranks them 3rd: We shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves, but doesn’t it seem like the Patriots and Broncos are on a collision course for an AFC championship showdown? Grabbing a first-week bye puts the veteran Pats in a great position to return to the Super Bowl. A healthy Rob Gronkowski is key to this team’s success.
Patriots Football Weekly ranks them 3rd.
Pete Prisco (CBS Sports) ranks them 3rd: Thanks to the Texans slipping, the Patriots can rest for a week. It's Tom Brady time in the playoffs.
Joel Thorman (SB Nation) ranks them 4th: The same position every year. Best offense in the NFL, 10-plus wins and a first-round bye. I'm going to copy and paste this for next season's power rankings.
ESPN ranks them 4th: New England swept the AFC East for just the second time in team history and recorded its first shutout since 2009.
Cold Hard Football Facts ranks them 6th.
AVERAGE RANK: 2.7 (+1.2)