Did I say last time that Week 4 was a must-win game for New England? My mistake. Apparently I should have referred to it as an expected-win game. Silly me. To the experts a win against Buffalo doesn't really count - despite the warnings of their new and improved defensive front and the fact that they won their last two games.
The Bills blowout did vault the Patriots into first place in the division and moved them up two points in the Power Rankings, so I guess it did count for something. Now that I know better, and with a real NFL quarterback coming to town, I declare Week 5 to be the new must-win game. The 2-2 Broncos, Peyton Manning, a Conference matchup ... can anything else be piled on to ratchet up the pressure?
Tough slate of games ahead for the rest of the AFC East too. The Jets (2-2) face the Texans (4-0), the Bills (2-2) play the 49ers (3-1) in San Fran and the Dolphins face the Bengals (3-1) in Cincy.
It doesn't get much better. Go Pats!
Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News) ranks them 5th: Quarter-pole MVP: QB Tom Brady. It doesn't matter he changed back to an old offense, or that injuries and inconsistency creep up around him. He keeps everything together and the Patriots on track, no matter what.
NFL.com experts rank them 6th.
Pro Football Talk ranks them 6th: The offense finally has found the accelerator. And the pedal is pressed to the metal.
ESPN ranks them 6th: Who's being phased out? Wes Welker is on pace for a 100-catch season.
Peter King (SI) ranks them 6th: Forty-five points in the last 25 minutes at Buffalo. Vince Wilfork told me there were no inspirational speeches at halftime, the Pats down to Buffalo 14-7. There was, however, Tom Brady, who is pretty good.
Don Banks (SI) ranks them 6th: The Patriots scored 31 points in the fourth quarter at Buffalo on Sunday, becoming just the fifth team in NFL history to rack up at least that many in the game's final 15 minutes. Even if Aaron Hernandez is hurt, and Wes Welker bounces in and out of Bill Belichick's doghouse and New England uses 27 different running backs, the Patriots can flat light it up when they start feeling it on offense. It's a sight to behold. Unless you're a Bills fan.
The AP Pro32 ranks them 6th.
Cold Hard Football Facts ranks them 6th: The Pats are locked in a tie for No. 6, sliding up six places after dropping 52 points on the Bills in Week 4. The bad news: New England is 0-2 against Quality Opponents.
WEEI ranks them 7th: The Patriots are only going to get better as the season goes along. The league should give them their division championship T-shirts tomorrow. The AFC East is a disgrace.
Pete Prisco (CBS Sports) ranks them 7th: Nothing like getting the Bills to help turn things around. Tom Brady has a nice way of fixing things.
Elliot Harrison (NFL.com) ranks them 8th: There is no shortage of fans who hate the Pats, and that's fine. But if you don't admire the resilience of Bill Belichick's club, you're missing the boat. On Sunday afternoon, New England faced a 21-7 deficit ... in the third quarter ... on the road ... against a division rival. Just over 15 game-minutes later, the Pats led, 42-21. Five unanswered touchdowns. It happens that fast.
Joel Thurman (SB Nation) ranks them 9th: 52 points in Buffalo seems expected. They're back to .500.
Brian Billick (Fox Sports) ranks them 9th: The Patriots scored 35 unanswered points to absolutely throttle the Bills on Sunday. The Pats had two 100-yard receivers and two 100-yard rushers, which has only happened one other time in NFL history. Oh yeah, so much for Wes Welker being invisible in the 2012 version of this offense.
MJD Shutdown Corner (Yahoo! Sports) ranks them 9th: Here's the relevant question: How much of that second half against Buffalo was the Patriots finding their offensive stride, and how much of it was Buffalo, for whatever reason, just deciding to lay down like recess was over and it was naptime? Also, I never thought I'd say this, but I'm looking forward to a some meaningless Manning vs. Brady hype this week. It's been too long.
AVERAGE RANK: 6.2 (+2.1)