Patriots Nation has lots to be thankful for, especially with the Pats still riding the feel-good mojo from Sunday night. I know I am. The majority of rankings 'experts must be too, moving them up two spots to a solid 4th place. Plenty of terrific games on the schedule this weekend as the plethora of AFC teams battle for position.
Enjoy the holiday and, as always,
Week 13 AFC Rundown:
New England (8-3) at Houston (2-9)
Miami (5-6) at NY Jets (5-6)
Buffalo (4-7) vs. Atlanta (2-9)
Denver (9-2) at Kansas City (9-2)
Pittsburgh (5-6) at Baltimore (5-6)
Indianapolis (7-4) vs. Tennessee (5-6)
Cincinnati (7-4) at San Diego (5-6)
Cleveland (4-7) vs. Jacksonville (2-9)
Peter King (The MMQB) ranks them 2nd: I like a team that, in a short week, can forget the bitter, focus on the now, have an absolutely pathetic half of football, believe a win is still in reach, and reach it. Having Tom Brady helps.
Pat Kirwan (CBS Sports) ranks them 3rd: The Pats are back and looking like the scoring machine of old. With so many injuries on defense, they may have to settle for outscoring teams every week.
Chris Burke (SI) ranks them 3rd: Forget riding the hot hand. The Patriots have been reduced to sticking with the hand that can hang onto the football at running back. Currently in the spotlight: Brandon Bolden, who stepped in after Stevan Ridley and LeGarrette Blount put the ball on the deck in Sunday's dramatic come-from-behind win.
The AP Pro32 ranks them 3rd.
Brian Billick (Fox Sports) ranks them 4th: It takes some serious stones to win the toss and take the wind in overtime -- no matter who is playing quarterback for the opposing team, let alone Peyton Manning.
ESPN experts rank them 4th: How improbable was Sunday? According to Elias, teams trailing by at least 24 points at halftime were 5-617 entering Sunday night. Make it six.
Joe Zarbano (WEEI) ranks them 4th: No franchise executes the "next man up" philosophy better than New England. Whether it’s Jerod Mayo, Vince Wilfork, Aaron Hernandez or Wes Welker, the Patriots continue to find a way to win more than they lose.
Rick Drummond (Pro Football Focus) ranks them 4th: Beating the conditions – and the Broncos – helped New England to an improved standing, moving up two spots back into the Top 5. Following the tough chores of Carolina and Denver, a trip to Houston to face the newly-crowned No. 32 is their reward.
Andy Hart (Patriots Football Weekly) ranks them 5th: The Patriots turnover-filled victory over the Broncos in overtime left New England steady at No. 5, where it is tied with a 49ers team that moved up thanks to an impressive win over the Redskins in Washington.
Elliot Harrison (NFL.com) ranks them 5th: What motivated the Patriots in that second half? We heard it was all Bill Belichick's halftime speech ... "We're not playing well. They're playing better. We got to do better in the second half." What a comeback in New England. We received a lot of grief for keeping the Patriots high on this totem pole back when they were struggling. Now you know there indeed is a method to our perceived madness.
Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News) ranks them 5th: The Patriots slide up a notch after outlasting the Broncos in a memorable overtime, tale of two halves affair. Again, the style points are a little lost with this year’s edition, but with Tom Brady, they are still equipped to win the close ones. They already have wins against two of the three teams ahead of them, Denver and New Orleans. Now it’s time to put up some convincing victories on teams well behind them. If they can’t find a reliable running back and steadier run blocking. Go figure that it might be the combination of Brandon Bolden and Shane Vereen going forward. Turnovers and offensive line woes have held them back a bit.
Hank Gola (NY Daily News) ranks them 5th: Year-in, year-out, Brady and Belichick get it done.
USA Today ranks them 5th: Tom Brady was magnificent, and Bill Belichick's coin-flip gambit worked in OT.
Frank Schwab (Yahoo! Sports) ranks them 5th: The arrow is pointing up, even with the defensive injuries. This could be a few spots too low. Nobody will want to play them in January, obviously.
Ryan Van Bibber (SB Nation) ranks them 5th: Kutuzov, Zhukov and Brady can all agree on one thing -- whether you're facing the brilliance of Napoleon and his Grande Armee, the might and ferocity of the Wehrmacht or the precision passing of Peyton Manning, General Winter is one heck of an ally. Winter and Brady combined for yet another cold-weather conquest of Manning, though the halftime court-martial and execution of Private Fumbleitis and second-stanza contributions of Rear Admiral Edelman and Marshal Gronkowski also played major roles. You can punish the Pats on the ground, but with his full complement of passing weapons, Brady will ensure that New England is a tough out in the playoffs.
AVERAGE RANK: 4.0 (+1.9)