It's that time of year again folks. The Patriots are getting that look. In the midst of the hilarity from last week's win, and in spite of the Jets' very public implosion, it was clear that the Patriots were a very focused team in New York. This Sunday will be more of the same - just another business trip down in Miami.
The experts are just starting to notice that the Patriots not only still exist, but just might be a force to be reckoned with. The final stretch of the regular season is almost here, and they've already come a long way since Tennessee.
Coming up: Let's take a look at which matchups we should keep an eye on this week in the AFC.
First things first. A Patriots (8-3) win in Miami (5-6) clinches the AFC East for New England. It's hard to imagine the team losing focus for a hat and T-shirt game, on the road, against a division rival with a rookie quarterback.
Unfortunately for the NY Jets (4-7), they have to play the Arizona Cardinals (4-7) at MetLife Stadium, with the angry hometown mob still reeling from the Thanksgiving Day disaster. If they're losing at the half, the players might want to keep their helmets on as they're heading through the tunnel.
The Jacksonville Jaguars (2-9), who've shown some fight behind Chad Henne, travel to Buffalo to play the (4-7).
(4-7) will host the AFC leader Houston Texans (10-1). The (9-2) face the (6-5) without Big Ben in Pittsburgh. The (8-3) play the feisty (6-5) at Mile High.
Now that every speck of sweetness has been sucked off that delicious debacle in New York, I'm finally ready to put Week 12 aside and move on to Miami.
Peter King (SI) ranks them 1st: Pats have averaged 47.5 points per game the last four weeks. Tom Brady's on pace for 35 touchdowns and four interceptions. Occasionally they show signs of being defensively competent. And Thursday, they won by 30 without their two best offensive linemen, best tight end and best defensive end. How they have three losses, I have no idea.
Pro Football Talk ranks them 2nd: The Pats are peaking, but can they carry it to February this time?
Shutdown Corner (Yahoo! Sports) ranks them 3rd: New England scored on offense, defense and special teams in a 52-second stretch of last Thursday night's 49-19 thumping of the Jets. The Patriots are now No. 2 in Football Outsiders' team DVOA and have one of the 12 best DVOAs in the history of the metric, which looks as far back as 1991. The Patriots can clinch the AFC East with a win over the Dolphins on Sunday.
USA Today ranks them 3rd: They don't lead the league in wins, but they lead it in gratuitous beatdowns.
Don Banks (SI) ranks them 4th: The Patriots just have that head-down, we-mean-business look to them as December looms. When you can start seeing your breath in Foxboro, the Patriots can start to see the finish line. New England has averaged almost 44 points per game during its current five-game win streak, and its three losses this season were by a combined four points (by two against Arizona, by one at Baltimore, and by one at Seattle).
Pro Football Weekly ranks them 4th: Not missing a beat with key starters sitting out with injuries.
Pete Prisco (CBS Sports) ranks them 4th: If the secondary plays better, which I think it will, they will be a hard out in the postseason. They get a chance to end Miami's playoff hopes this week.
WEEI ranks them 4th: There is just one team in the NFL averaging over 30 points per game, and that’s the New England Patriots. Bill Belichick‘s team has stampeded over opposing defenses and has averaged 37 points per game. The last four games have been even more impressive. The Pats have put up 190 points. That’s more points than the Chiefs, Cardinals, Eagles and Jaguars have scored all season.
NFL.com experts rank them 4th.
Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News) ranks them 4th: There’s really nothing that can slow Brady and their passing offense, and he stayed ablaze against the Jets despite not having a healthy Rob Gronkowski. He can pass them all the way to the Super Bowl again.
The AP Pro32 ranks them 4th.
Cold Hard Football Facts ranks them 4th: The Patriots are scoring 47.5 PPG over their last four wins. New England is now No. 1 in Scoreability and on pace to score more points than any team in history (592). And we thought only the Oregon Ducks were capable of scoring so efficiently.
Joel Thorman (SB Nation) ranks them 5th: Almost seems a little too quiet around New England. They've averaging 37 points per game, which is comically high. They've scored 45 or more points in four of their games. They're the best offense and it's not even close. The Texans and 49ers should be their only possible slip-ups down the road.
Elliot Harrison (NFL.com) ranks them 5th: It was 35-0 in the second quarter when I decided to watch The Impossible, the story of a family that went through great lengths to reunite after the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia. Great flick.
Brian Billick (Fox Sports) ranks them 5th: The Patriots are finally looking the part of a championship-caliber team. The home loss to the Cardinals is way back in their rear-view mirrors at this point.
ESPN ranks them 5th: The Patriots are the only team averaging more than 30 points per game this season. They've averaged 43.8 points in their five-game win streak.
National Football Post ranks them 6th: That was too easy vs. the Jets on Thanksgiving night.
Patriots Football Weekly ranks them 7th.
AVERAGE RANK: 4.1 (+ 1.2)