These are always the best weeks, aren't they?
There's just something about getting a big win that makes the rest of the week a joy to slog through. Wins like the one we all got to witness this past Monday night are the wins that you just want to savor. When your team not only blows out an opponent on national television, but blows out the supposed best team in the NFL on national television, you want to soak in every possible moment of the win and stand tall on your soapbox of smug, arrogant obnoxiousness. Re-watching highlights. Reading each every "Patriots showed the Texans who owns the AFC" article the moment it goes live. Trolling local Texans sites to revel in the misery that you helped to cause. Posting "good game, Houston" on Texans message boards in a flagrantly transparent display of good sportsmanship that is absolutely nothing more than a not-so-subtle reminder that the Pats won and the Pats won big. Recapping the game with co-workers, friends, and pretty much anyone will listen. I could go on all day listing the many, many ways I do my part to ensure that the rest of the football world's hatred for Pats fans burns with the heat of Kyle Love's seat cushion after a four hour bus ride to The Meadowlands.
Unfortunately, however, I can't. The truth is that, in the grand scheme of things, this win didn't do all that much for the Patriots' playoff push other than give them the tiebreaker over the Texans - should it even come to that. It's already time to put this game behind us and get busy, and here are the main reasons why.
This game created very little separation. 10-3 is nice, but New England isn't the only team to have that record. Denver is sitting at 10-3 as well and are likely going to run the table to finish the year. That means that all Monday's win really did was allow the Patriots to maintain that half game lead over the Broncos. The Patriots simply have to keep winning, and because of that, the attitude around the locker room has to be "next game." There just isn't any time to enjoy this one, because one slip up will likely mean the difference between an extra playoff game or a bye.
Houston is still in control of the #1 seed. This loss may have damaged Houston's ego, but it didn't do all that much to harm their chances of locking up homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. Like I said, New England now holds the tiebreaker over the Texans should each team finish 13-3, but that tiebreaker is completely irrelevant unless Houston loses again. Two monster games against the Colts over the next three weeks will determine much, but if the Texans take care of business, this win won't really mean all that much and the Patriots will be traveling south the next time these two teams face each other.
Injuries. While their extent isn't known and won't be known for some time, the Patriots' secondary took a big hit on Monday with injuries to Aqib Talib, Alfonzo Dennard, and Kyle Arrington. While neither Arrington's nor Talib's injuries seemed all that serious up front, Dennard's hamstring could keep him out for a few weeks. Not only are the Patriots now thin at cornerback, but they would also be losing critical reps as a unit that would further solidify their chemistry. The amount of shuffling that has been going on back there has made it very tough for a secondary to hit its stride, but over the past few weeks, the same guys have lined up in the same positions and that consistency has showed. Hopefully all three guys will be back out there on Sunday, otherwise Devin McCourty will be forced back into the corner role, where he will once again fall victim to the dreaded no-turn deflection - colloquially known as Defensive Pass Interference.
The 2010 Jets. In 2010, the Patriots absolutely demolished the Jets on Monday night to the tune of 45-3. A few short weeks later, the Jets came back to Foxboro and beat up on the #1 seed Patriots in a playoff game in which New England never led and was never really in. So, while it's good to get a statement win like this, at the end of the day it doesn't mean all that much. Should these two teams meet again, Houston will have the advantage of being a heavy underdog who learned a valuable lesson earlier in the season. Pretty much anything can happen in the postseason, and in a month or so this win will count for absolutely nothing.