The good news is that the Patriots, right now, sit atop the AFC East and control their own destiny. No matter how many Ron Borges articles are written to have you believe otherwise, they are still masters of their domain heading into Week 10. Live in the moment. Enjoy it. Appreciate it.
That was last week. Today I am happy to report Patriots fans will get to enjoy and appreciate the moment for at least another week. The sweeping of the Rex Ryan-led Jets, on the other hand, will be savored for months. Even Ron Borges was moved to suspend his doubt about the Pats' strategy of "playing so many rejects and unknowns," to appreciate the team effort for "one glorious night at the Meadowlands." His Grinch-like heart may still be two sizes too small but remember, he wasn't impressed with their perfect season either.
So let's take a look at where New England (6-3) stands in the Conference from its perch atop the AFC East after Week 10. While they're one win ahead, there isn't much breathing room with New York (5-4) and Buffalo (5-4) right behind them in the standings.
Pittsburgh (7-3), Houston (7-3), and Oakland (5-4) all lead the AFC's other divisions by at least one game. The AFC North has two teams on the heels of the Steelers: Baltimore (6-3) and Cincinnati (6-3).
Tennessee (5-4) might have a tough time catching Houston in the AFC South, but with Matt Schaub being replaced by Matt Leinart, the division winner is no where near being set in stone.
The AFC West has three teams jammed up behind Oakland, with San Diego, Denver and Kansas City all at 4-5.
Taking into consideration the NFC teams that are solidly ahead in their divisions, the average ranking of the Patriots at 6.4 is reasonable. WEEI listing them 9th strikes me as a bit low, and while Peter King legitimately questions the team's consistency, actually dropping them from 7th to 8th after such an important division win seems odd.
The Patriots have positioned themselves well at the mid-point. I'd love to see them come out strong against the Chiefs on Monday night and build on what they were able to accomplish against the Jets.
The Sporting News ranks them 4th: Wes Welker is the top receiver in the NFL this season, with 72 receptions for 1,006 yards. Calling him just a great slot/possession guy anymore would be an insult.
Pro Football Talk ranks them 4th: The Patriots are back in control of the division. For now.
Elliot Harrison (NFL.com) ranks them 4th: What was so encouraging about Sunday night's win in Jets-land was the emergence of the pass rush. This one facet of the pro game has eluded Bill Belichick the past few years, especially in the big ones, and would do much to smooth over the rough play of the secondary. The running back by committee might be an early exit by committee if the Pats don't develop a more effective means to close out games. Call it an odd comment after the domination of the Jets, but the thought remains.
Brian Billick (Fox Sports) ranks them 6th: It is hard to handicap this division. The Jets beat the Bills, the Bills beat the Patriots and the Patriots beat the Jets. Andre Carter has emerged as the pass-rushing threat the Patriots had been missing. Their schedule the rest of the way may give the Patriots a chance to get their swagger back.
Pro Football Weekly ranks them 6th: No-name defense helps put Pats back atop AFC East.
Michael Silver (Yahoo! Sports) ranks them 6th: After Rob Gronkowski’s potent performance against the Jets on Sunday night, will some of Bibi Jones’ colleagues be competing with her for the tight end’s affections?
Don Banks (SI) ranks them 7th: I'm not sure what got into Patriots defensive end Andre Carter the other night against the Jets -- he had a franchise-record 4.5 sacks -- but I do know New York's offensive line can't blame it all on an injury to Pro Bowl center Nick Mangold this time, because Mangold played. The Patriots have been waiting for that kind of jail break to the quarterback for years now, and it's remarkable how much better the pass defense looks when the heat is on the opposing passer. Simple game, this football.
Pete Prisco (CBS Sports) ranks them 7th: They just don't lose three in a row under Bill Belichick. They're back in control in the division now.
Joel Thurman (SB Nation) ranks them 7th: One game up in the AFC East through 10 weeks. It's looking like a familiar refrain in that division.
National Football Post ranks them 7th: The Pats took control of the AFC East by beating up the Jets in New York.
Cold Hard Football Facts ranks them 7th: After getting gashed for 400+ yards in each of the first four games, New England has allowed 359.6 yards a game in the last five – ahead of their 2010 average of 366.5. In one of the statistical anomalies of all time, the 14-2 Patriots of a year ago were actually outgained on the season (5,864-5,820).
Peter King (SI) ranks them 8th: This was really the hardest week to do this list. The way the Patriots played Sunday night, I could make a case they should be third, or that the Bears could be just as high. The fact is, the consistency with teams like New England and Pittsburgh is what I wonder about now.
ESPN ranks them 8th: Why would anyone write off a Patriots team led by QB Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick?
WEEI ranks them 9th: The relentless, high-energy way the Patriots defense played on Sunday night is exactly what they’ll need to see on a consistent basis. Tom Brady was able to get his offense back on track with the no-huddle. The Patriots have had success with the no-huddle and it was easy to tell that it caught the Jets off guard. Forcing turnovers, scoring off those turnovers, and running a precise offense is exactly what Patriots fans have been accustomed to seeing over the years.
AVERAGE RANK: 6.4 (+2.6)