Hard to believe the NFL is almost at the midway point.
The Patriots are sitting at 5-2, with their allocated two ugly losses thankfully now behind them, still on track for a 14-2 regular season record. Damn Steelers beating the Patriots at their own game Sunday (how dare they steal the dink and dunk!) resulted in them leap-frogging over New England right into their old spot in the rankings.
Meanwhile, the Patriots have been dropped like a pass to Chad Ochocinco and the 'experts' have put them anywhere from 3rd to 7th. There's not too much to dispute with the demotion down the ranks although Pete Prisco's lone seventh ranking seems a tad harsh, and third leans a bit on the optimistic side. The average rank of 4.4 sounds about right.
The top 5 AFC teams of Pittsburgh (6-2), Buffalo (5-2), New England (5-2), Cincinnati (5-2) and Baltimore (5-2) all have records that include at least one really ugly loss - so ugly that it makes it impossible to single out any one of them as a stand-out above the rest. The next few weeks may tell if the Bills are overachieving or if it looks like the Steelers are heading back to the Super Bowl, but for now they're all chunks in the same soup.
Check out this weeks rankings after the jump: [Updated Wed.]
Pro Football Weekly ranks them 3rd: Significant flaws in the pass defense need to get fixed.
National Football Post ranks them 3rd: Brady and the Patriots offense should expect to see more press-coverage when the game tape from Sunday gets around the league.
The Sporting News ranks them 4th: By league standards, Brady remains an elite quarterback. By his loftier standards, however, he can't be happy with the fact he's already double last season's interception total with eight.
WEEI ranks them 4th: It was clear the Patriots were outplayed and out-coached in Sunday’s loss to the Steelers. The defense took a step back. Once again the pass rush was ineffective and the secondary was no match for the Steelers receivers. The receivers were constantly able to get plenty of separation. On offense, we saw what happens when opposing defenses take away the short, intermediate routes from Tom Brady. The Patriots lack a deep threat receiver and have trouble stretching the field.
Pro Football Talk ranks them 4th: Tom Brady’s ownership of the Steelers apparently was financed by one of those sub-prime mortgages.
Brian Billick (Fox Sports) ranks them 4th: Hard to drop the Patriots down too much for losing on the road to a resurgent Steelers team. Still, the defense did nothing to indicate they were getting any better and it was surprising that the Steelers' secondary was able to thwart the "small ball" offense of the Patriots so effectively.
SB Nation ranks them 4th: It's early so Bill Belichick can work on it but the Pats defense has been exposed. They're one of the elite teams but that defense brings them back to earth a little bit.
Peter King (SI) ranks them 4th: These things happen, allowing 365 passing yards, when you lose two of your four best corners in the two days before playing a passing team.
ESPN ranks them 5th: Coach Bill Belichick has lost his fastball on defense.
NFL.com ranks them 6th: While New England has matched its 2010 loss total, there's no reason to blow that statistic out of proportion. Both defeats have come on the road, and by a grand total of 11 points. Amazingly, every team in the AFC already has at least two losses. What is of major concern to the organization is the completely shoddy play of the secondary. Releasing Leigh Bodden made no difference; Ben Roethlisberger torched them for 365 yards. The Patriots have now allowed 39 pass plays of 20-plus yards, easily the most in the league.
Pete Prisco (CBS Sports) ranks them 7th: Where is the big play? Where is the deep speed? That is showing up now more and more. Even Tom Brady can't overcome that.
Michael Silver (Yahoo! Sports) ranks them 4th: After hearing Andre Carter describe the Pats’ defense as a “circus,” was Bill Belichick tempted to shoot back, “At least it’s a three-ring circus”?
Don Banks (SI) ranks them 5th: Even when they win, the Patriots give up gobs of passing yardage and it must be galling for a defensive guru like Bill Belichick to field a team that ranks last in overall defense (424.1 yards per game) and passing defense (323.1). Tom Brady and the New England offense helps you out-gun most of your opponents, but when was the last time the Patriots defense really stopped anyone? The Ty Law era?
Cold Hard Football Facts ranks them 6th: The Patriots’ defense is allowing real yards (424.1 a game, worst in the league), and penalty yards to boot (68.9 per game, tied for third worst). They’re on pace to allow an NFL-record 267 first downs through the air – that’s 41 than they gave up in 2010 when they allowed the most in the league (226).
AVERAGE RANK: 4.5 (-2.3)