Meet the new rankings, same as the old rankings. Pretty much the same storylines too: 'What's a nice offense like you doing with a bad defense like this?'
This may have something to do with how I used to hope I could rescue and bring home every stray mutt I saw as a kid, but this patchwork, mish-mash of a defense has grown on me over the season and I'm all-in with this group. Each week I wonder who's going to make the key interception or knock down the one 4th-down pass attempt that matters, or be the one to grab the runner around the ankles just in time to save the day. Stats be damned. Defender miss a couple of tackles? It's all good as long as the receiver is wrapped up good when it absolutely matters. She ain't pretty, but she's mine.
The Patriots will be able to clinch the AFC East Sunday with either a win, or a Jets loss (hopefully both.) The Jets only chance for a division title is to win all three remaining games while the Patriots lose out, but the odds of that happening are slim to none. Sunday the Jets are playing the sharp-looking Eagles with Michael Vick back at QB, and then they have a tough matchup against the Giants in Week 16. For New England, this week's Broncos game in Denver is clearly looking to be the toughest game left on the schedule. I'm not conceding any cupcakes though, especially against division opponents.
By the way, as much as the experts are bemoaning the Patriots defense, they're all hailing the mighty Gronk. It will be interesting to see what the vaunted Denver defense cooks up to rein him in, and how the Patriots offense responds if they're successful. As that notable New York philosopher once stated, "Can't wait!"
Brian Billick (Fox Sports) ranks them 2nd: A Tom Brady red zone gaffe, an ensuing argument on the sidelines and then a deflected interception for the defense made the last seven minutes of this game exciting. But when it was all said and done, the Patriots came away with a win vs. the Redskins. And for a team like the Patriots, that is all that really matters.
Vinnie Iyer (The Sporting News) ranks them 3rd: MVP: TE Rob Gronkowski. Look, Brady has plenty of hardware of his own. We're just spreading the wealth to the man who caught 15 of Brady's 33 touchdown passes to date.
Peter King (SI) ranks them 3rd: I bet Tom Brady really wasn't all giddy and happy with Bill O'Brien, the way it appeared in the postgame presser, for biting his head off when he threw the bad interception late in Washington. But I also bet Brady appreciates a normally placid coach going freakazoid too, because a throw like Brady's shouldn't be acceptable.
Pro Football Talk ranks them 4th: Maybe Tom Brady’s next endorsement deal will be with the folks who make Valium.
National Football Post ranks them 5th: Until someone figures out how to stop Rob Gronkowski in the red zone the Patriots will continue to produce points.
ESPN ranks them 5th: In just his second year, Rob Gronkowski is making a case to be considered the NFL's top tight end.
Joel Thorman (SB Nation) ranks them 5th: The Patriots are starting to hit their stride (even with a slight hiccup against Washington). They should wrap up the AFC East shortly.
WEEI ranks them 5th: The Patriots’ five straight wins have come against subpar quarterbacks; their last two losses have come against Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning. Each week, the Pats’ D looks more and more suspect. They can’t expect to win in the playoffs with Matt Slater and Julian Edelman running around in the secondary. They need Pat Chung healthy and back at safety. Aside from their last game, the run defense has done a solid job. Tebow and the Broncos offer a different type of offense that the Patriots are used to seeing, but it might work to their advantage.
Don Banks (SI) ranks them 5th: Nothing much to chew on in this week's Patriots at Broncos game, other than the two hottest stories in the NFL: The continued phenomena of Tebow-mania and the monster scoring/receiving machine that is 22-year-old New England tight end Rob Gronkowski. I imagine they're both selling a few jerseys this Christmas, and that's not all they've got in common. I haven't seen anyone yet tackle them one-on-one in the open field.
Michael Silver (Yahoo! Sports) ranks them 5th: New England Patriots: Yo, Bill O’Brien – grandstand much?
Elliot Harrison (NFL.com) ranks them 6th: When you think of Tom Brady getting in a shootout with another quarterback, Rex Grossman has to be the first guy you think about. Maybe not. But it says anything and everything about the state of the Pats pass defense, which has been connected by Lincoln Logs as of late. Wideout Julian Edelman is playing defensive back. Real DBs haven't been playing like DBs, and thus this team's playoff kryptonite might be a secondary that allows more than 300 yards per game.
NFL.com experts rank them 6th
Pete Prisco (CBS Sports) ranks them 6th: The offense has to offset that bad defense every game. Now that defense has to figure out a way to stop Tim Tebow.
Cold Hard Football Facts ranks them 6th: Tom Brady’s numbers over the Patriots’ five-game winning streak: 13 TDs, one interception. Over his last 16 games in the second half of seasons (i.e. Games 9-16): 40 touchdowns, three interceptions, 15 wins. Do the Patriots play in a dome or something?
AVERAGE RANK: 4.7 (+.2)