Okay, okay, I get it. The Patriots are 1-2 and have a losing record in September. This week they've dropped an average of 2 points in the rankings, with a division game and another tough defense in store for Week 4 - on the road in Buffalo.
But we're only 3 games in and I'm a lot more optimistic than I was the last time the Patriots had a losing record. That would be 2003 when NE began the season with a 31-0 loss to the Buffalo Bills. Wow. Nine years without a losing record. Pretty impressive. I believe they won the Super Bowl that year too. Hmm...
Around the AFC East, the Jets (2-1) currently sit at the top and will face the San Francisco 49ers (2-1) at home. I'm doubly an NFC fan this week as Miami (1-2) will travel to Arizona to play the undefeated Arizona Cardinals (3-0).
No question the Patriots need a win this week. I can't remember the last time I looked forward to a Bills game with this much excitement. Buffalo has improved, the Pats are amped and revamped, and it should be a terrific game.
National Football Post ranks them 6th: Two straight losses for Brady and the Pats. That hasn’t happened since the 2003 season.
Elliot Harrison (NFL.com) ranks them 6th: If you can figure out Bill Belichick's running-back rotation, hit me up at @Harrison_NFL. Or hit my beeper. Or the car phone. Also, Julian Edelman's early departure from the game in Baltimore ensured Wes Welker would get all those targets Belichick has allegedly been stingy with. Whatever; let's not knee-jerk over Welker. He'll catch 75 to 80 balls in an offense that doesn't require him to be a 122-catch guy.
Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News) ranks them 6th: The Patriots moved away from BenJarvus Green-Ellis to feature the more versatile third-rounder from LSU. They'll need to run more to protect Tom Brady behind some iffier pass protection.
Joel Thurman (SB Nation) ranks them 7th: So how low do you drop New England for losing to my third-ranked team? Call me stubborn but I'm keeping them here pending next week's game in Buffalo.
NFL.com experts rank them 7th.
Pro Football Weekly ranks them 8th: Dropped below .500 mark for first time since early 2003.
Pro Football Talk ranks them 8th: The last time the Pats had a losing record, they won the Super Bowl.
ESPN ranks them 8th: New England has a losing record for the first time since it lost the 2003 season opener.
WEEI ranks them 8th: The Patriots’ inability to close games late in the fourth quarter on both sides of the ball is a reason for concern. The revamped defense got exposed by Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense. The Patriots cornerbacks are not talented enough to play man coverage on opposing receivers. We saw both Devin McCourty and Kyle Arrington get fooled on Sunday night. The Ravens receivers simply ran by them.
Peter King (SI) ranks them 8th: So much for the mothballing of Wes "8 for 142'' Welker.
Don Banks (SI) ranks them 8th: What are two 1-2 teams doing in our top 8, you say? Relax. We all know the Packers are really 2-1 in a cosmic sense (even you, Pete Carroll), and the Patriots are a couple plays away from being 3-0. New England may be under .500 for the first time since the 2003 opener (a truly astounding statistic), but Bill Belichick's team isn't in any real trouble yet. Let the Pats lose in Buffalo this week -- as they did last September -- and we'll reconsider.
The AP Pro32 ranks them 8th.
MJD Shutdown Corner (Yahoo! Sports) ranks them 9th: A one-game suspension of Bill Belichick would not be unwarranted. You can't put your hands on an official like that, I don't care how frustrated you are. If Mike McCarthy didn't choke the life out of an official with his bare hands, no one else has an excuse to lay a hand on one.
Pete Prisco (CBS Sports) ranks them 10th: They've lost two games in a row. That just doesn't happen. Who thought they might go 16-0? They could have problems winning 12 now.
Cold Hard Football Facts ranks them 12th: The Pats haven't lost two games in September since Tom Brady won his first Super Bowl in 2001. Trips to Buffalo and Seattle in the next three weeks won't make life much easier.
Brian Billick (Fox Sports) ranks them 12th: Just when you think Stevan Ridley is becoming an integral part of the offense, Danny Woodhead gets all the reps. Ridley gave the Patriots a rushing presence in Week 1, it's no coincidence that is the only game they have won this season.
AVERAGE RANK: 8.3 (-1.8)