What a difference a blowout makes.
The Patriots couldn't have picked a better way to head into their bye week, and as a fan I want to express my appreciation for the offensive mastery in dismantling the Steelers defense. It was wonderful to actually be able to sit down for a bit and enjoy that one - besides the jumping up and down for all of the scoring, that is. At 7-2 and with Tom Brady still intact, right now it's all good.
The rankings experts took notice of Brady and the offense finally "snapping out of it," and moved the team up two points from last week. Averaging 6th, they range between 4th and 9th which sounds about right. The niggling concerns at the moment center on the defense being able to hold up after all the injuries, and whether the offense can continue the production they showed against Pittsburgh.
Time will tell, of course. Players (I'm looking at YOU, Talib, Ninkovich and Vereen) get to rest and heal up for a bit before returning November 18th for a Monday Night Football prime time game in Carolina. Two Sundays without the Patriots playing stinks, but it gives the fans time to get nails grown back, their heart rates down and their blood pressure back under control before the all-important second half of the season starts up again. Below are the AFC matchups to keep an eye on this Sunday.
REST & HEAL UP, PATS!
Week 10 AFC Rundown:
Buffalo (3-6) at Pittsburgh (2-6)
Miami (4-4) at Tampa Bay (0-8)
Denver (7-1) at San Diego (4-4)
Cincinnati (6-3) at Baltimore (3-5)
Indianapolis (6-2) vs. St. Louis (3-6)
Tennessee (4-4) vs. Jacksonville (0-8)
Houston (2-6) at Arizona (4-4)
Oakland (3-5) at NY Giants (2-6)
Elliot Harrison (NFL.com) ranks them 4th: Team effort all the way around. Julian Edelman's 43-yard punt return in the third quarter and 39-yard return in the fourth were both big, as was the clutch play of the secondary late in the game -- and that was without Aqib Talib. Throw in the fact that the Pats don't have to throw -- Stevan Ridley played like an All-Pro and LeGarrette Blount ran hard late -- and New England looks like it's still a postseason threat. Right when you thought the Patriots would play clock ball on Sunday, Tom Brady went deep to Aaron Dobson. These guys are far from done.
Joe Fortenbaugh (Nat'l Football Post) ranks them 5th.
Pete Prisco (CBS Sports) ranks them 5th: It was only a matter of time before Tom Brady and that offense got it going. Watch out in the second half.
Brian Billick (Fox Sports) ranks them 5th: Welcome back, Tom Brady. He had combined for just four passing touchdowns in the last five weeks combined. He matched that on Sunday while the Patriots put up 610 yards of total offense.
Peter King (The MMQB) ranks them 5th: Good news: Four straight games of 27 points or more on offense. Bad news: Three of the last four foes have scored 27 or more on what was supposed to be a much improved defense. Shows how much New England misses Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo and Aqib Talib. But scoring 55 on the Steelers, and eclipsing 600 offensive yards, vaults the Pats.
Hank Gola (NY Daily News) ranks them 6th: Impressive win going into bye. Gronk: "When we're clicking, we're clicking."
Joe Zarbano (WEEI) ranks them 6th: Many questions surround the Patriots as they limp into their bye week. They have lost many key players on defense. Will they be able to overcome with their leaders missing?
Mike Florio (Pro Football Talk) ranks them 6th: One good game doesn’t mean Tom Brady has suddenly become as good as he used to be.
Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News) ranks them 6th: The Patriots finally turned in a masterful offensive performance with Tom Brady leading the way, and the 55 dropped on the Steelers was keyed by having Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola at full health together. New England is sitting right outside the top five, and as they get healthier, they get will more dangerous. To that end, a bye really helps. The Patriots have fallen to the Jets and Bengals, two other playoff-caliber AFC teams. They have to be better against those types of opponents.
The AP Pro32 ranks them 6th.
Andy Hart (Patriots Football Weekly) ranks them 6th.
Pat Kirwan (CBS Sports) ranks them 6th: Week 9 looked like the great Patriot offenses of the past. New England appears to be peaking at the right time and could be on their way up the rankings.
USA Today ranks them 6th: Hey look, Tom Brady is finally back! Offensive breakout, however, can't cover up holes on defense created by injuries.
ESPN experts rank them 7th: Entering Sunday, only two teams this season had three players gain at least 120 yards from scrimmage in the same game. Four different Patriots reached that benchmark vs. Pittsburgh.
Rick Drummond (Pro Football Focus) ranks them 7th: With Gronkowski back in the fold and looking more and more like his old self, the Patriots ran away from Pittsburgh and move up two spots as Cincy holds steady and Green Bay tumbles.
Frank Schwab (Yahoo! Sports) ranks them 7th: Through all the injuries and issues, they’re 7-2 with a pair of really close road losses to winning teams. What a job Bill Belichick has done, and what if Tom Brady showed Sunday he’s ready for a second-half surge?
Ryan Van Bibber (SB Nation) ranks them 7th: What a difference some professional receivers make! Tom Brady reveled in a fully healthy Gronk and Amendola combo, peppering the pair for 265 yards and a couple of scores. With Aaron Dobson locking down the left WR job and growing in confidence, rumors of Brady's demise as a top-tier QB may have been greatly exaggerated. The pass defense needs Aqib Talib back in a hurry, but the Pats will score plenty if Brady's weapons keep going where they're supposed to.
Cold Hard Football Facts ranks them 9th: The "Get Tough or Die" Patriots hit the bye week fresh off a historic 55-31 win over the down-and-out Steelers, the most points allowed in 80 years of Pittsburgh history. New England ranks in the top half of the league in 16 of 23 Quality Stats, led by a No. 3 ranking in all-important Defensive Passer Rating (74.2).
AVERAGE RANK: 6.1 (-2.7)