Week Two and the Patriots are undefeated. It's better than last year's 1-1 start, after losing a supposed gimme-game to the Arizona Cardinals in the home opener. But this year there's no excited optimism or the usual cockiness emanating out of New England after two division wins to open 2013. Tom Brady has been running the offense with a skeleton crew of pass catchers and the injuries keep piling up.
On a good note, the defense appears to be much-improved and has stingily kept each opponent from scoring more than 14 points - coming up huge when needed most. Rob Gronkowski is close to returning and Danny Amendola will not need surgery. Did I mention the Pats are 2-0?
As much as I've tried to channel some inner Joe Namath, it's simply not there. I DO care about my team struggling. I'm not angry with Belichick the GM or at Brady for going ballistic last week. I admit I love my uber-competitive quarterback caring too much and being all-in, every play, every game. So I'm in the camp of just letting this season unfold week-by-week. It's harder as a fan to watch a former Lamborghini offense sputter like an old Ford, but who said it's supposed to be easy? It's a different type of
anxiety excitement with the rookies out there, and certainly an increased pressure on the defense, but it's still a long way to go until Thanksgiving when the team will know what they are.
Some of the rankings experts are taking the optimistic approach, that the Pats with Brady & Belichick will figure things out soon enough. Others blame the wins on an easy opening schedule and don't have much confidence in any imminent improvement. The rest are in-between. All the team definitely owns right now is two wins. Tampa Bay would take that in a heartbeat over the two last-minute losses they're hand-wringing about now.
Other notable AFC games:
Pete Prisco (CBS Sports) ranks them 3rd: Yes, the offense is struggling. But they are 2-0. That's all that matters. That offense will eventually get it going.
Shutdown Corner (Yahoo! Sports) ranks them 5th: Let's calm down. The reason everyone is panicking is they didn't play well on a short week without Danny Amendola, Shane Vereen and Rob Gronkowski ... in a downpour. Oh, and some foolishness about Tom Brady's body language. They did win, don't forget.
Ryan Van Bibber (SB Nation) ranks them 5th: A win's a win, right? That's what was implied in the write up about the Texans, so I'm logically bound to offer that same standard here. Stupid logic. New England struggled to beat two teams with a rookie quarterback destined to compete for the bottom two spots in the AFC East. I still think Tom Brady gets his receivers on the same page, but there's no guarantee.
Brian Billick (Fox Sports) ranks them 5th: They may not have been very pretty, but the Patriots have two divisional wins and that is what's important.
Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News) ranks them 5th: Why they're here: It hasn't been pretty, as Tom Brady and the offense have been far out of sync from their usual lofty, prolific standard. But then again, Chandler Jones and the defense has made the necessary plays, and they still have two division wins. How they move up: Start looking like the Patriots' offense we are used to seeing. Getting Rob Gronkowski back in Week 3 would be nice. How they move down: If they don't tune up in time for potential shootouts with Atlanta, Cincinnati and New Orleans that are on the horizon.
Chris Burke (SI) ranks them 5th: Know how many times Tom Brady threw to Julian Edelman in 2011? Thirteen -- counting five targets in the playoffs. Edelman saw 32 passes come his direction last season. Last Thursday against the Jets, Brady targeted Edelman 18 times, the clearest evidence yet that the Patriots' receiver corps is in shambles.
The AP Pro32 ranks them 6th.
Pro Football Focus ranks them 6th: Question marks abound as Brady’s surrounding cast spent the day still searching for its feet and the front seven struggled against the run. They fall one spot and have a tenuous hold here with a few more teams looking to make a move up.
Elliot Harrison (NFL.com) ranks them 6th: What an ugly showing at home. Everyone has been talking about Tom Brady's body language on the sideline, how perhaps he was being too hard on Aaron Dobson. Uh ... why? Dobson might be in his first year, but he had the duration of organized team activities, minicamps, training camp, preseason and one regular-season game to figure out what he was doing out there. Dropping a bomb that was thrown right into his hands does not count as a "rookie mistake." It's a drop.
ESPN experts rank them 7th: After catching a 39-yard TD pass on his first-career target, Aaron Dobson's three drops cost his team 79 yards last Thursday night, not counting yards after catch.
Mike Florio (Pro Football Talk) ranks them 8th: I took a huge pay cut and all I got was this crappy T-shirt. And a bunch of crappy receivers."
WEEI ranks them 9th: Robert Kraft should send the NFL schedule-makers a big thank you card, because his team could easily be 0-2 if it wasn’t for the overall ineptitude of the Bills and Jets organizations.
USA Today ranks them 9th: Tom Brady might be exasperated with his receivers, but running game also is failing Patriots.
Pat Kirwan (CBS Sports) ranks them 10th: Two wins over rookie quarterbacks this early in the season isn't that impressive. The Pats are buying time until they get a few receivers back. This week Tampa Bay visits Foxborough, which should keep the Pats in the ranks of the undefeated.
Hank Gola (NY Daily News) ranks them 10th: Lucky to be playing in AFC East.
Peter King (MMQB.SI) ranks them 13th: Most advantageous opening schedule in recent league history: Two rookie quarterbacks to start—including Geno Smith having to go on the road in a short week—followed by a mini-bye (the Pats had the three-day weekend off) and a team with some civil war issues (Tampa Bay) coming up Sunday. In Foxboro.
AVERAGE RANK: 7.0 (- 1.9)