The Patriots lost the 2 points in the rankings they somehow acquired on their bye week, so they're back to their comfy 6th place perch after the loss in Carolina. Aside from some Mike Florio snark, the vibe from the analysts is still pretty positive. This is the time of year when good teams make their runs and begin to solidify their place in the playoff race. If there's ever a test for New England and Denver to prove their mettle, it's this week's Sunday Night primetime matchup.
Lots of interesting games this week, but rooting for Carolina and [gag] Baltimore is going to stick in my craw something fierce. The sacrifices we fans have to make for the good of our team goes above and beyond expectations sometimes, but it's all good.
Week 12 AFC Rundown:
New England (7-3) vs. Denver (9-1)
NY Jets (5-5) at Baltimore (4-6)
Miami (5-5) vs. Carolina (7-3)
Kansas City (9-1) vs. San Diego (4-6)
Indianapolis (7-3) at Arizona (6-4)
Pittsburgh (4-6) at Cleveland (4-6)
Tennessee (4-6) at Oakland (4-6)
Houston (2-8) vs. Jacksonville (1-9)
Peter King (The MMQB) ranks them 4th: Tough game to call tonight, but for the first time since Week 1 the Pats should have their IR/designee-to-return running back Shane Vereen. He was so vital to this offensive attack, and now, for the first time, he’s likely to play a game with Rob Gronkowski. Tom Brady will have close to a full weaponry, post-Hernandez and -Welker.
Andy Hart (Patriots Football Weekly) ranks them 5th.
Elliot Harrison (NFL.com) ranks them 6th: I don't know if you knew this, but Tom Brady was a sixth-round draft pick. Now that we've got that covered ... the non-call on that pass to Gronk was all the talk after the game. Yet, Stevan Ridley's fumble in the red zone was every bit as important. The ground attack certainly gave the New England offense some pop, in the form of 107 rushing yards -- that's the second-highest rushing total allowed by Carolina all season. If I'm a Patriots fan ( or Jerry Jones) I'm looking at this loss as a moral victory. Much went wrong, and yet, there the Pats were, nearly pulling out a road win versus a top team.
The AP Pro32 ranks them 6th.
Pete Prisco (CBS Sports) ranks them 6th: They are on a short week with the Broncos coming to town. That won't be easy.
Brian Billick (Fox Sports) ranks them 6th: The Patriots can't afford to sulk and blame the referees. They need to move on quickly with the Broncos coming to town this weekend.
Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News) ranks them 6th: The Patriots’ three losses have come to the Jets, Bengals and Panthers, all on the road, to teams with strong defenses up front. They’re a lot healthier and more dangerous offensively, but let’s not forget they are still missing key parts on the other side of the ball. They did hold serve against a similar team with offensive potency, New Orleans, at home, and that’s where they get Denver, too. It’s gotten to the point they need to simply outscore teams in shootouts, and for the first time all season, Tom Brady has the full arsenal to do just that. If Aqib Talib can’t be reliable in the secondary. The Patriots are getting picked apart on the back end when Talib isn’t a shutdown force, as it trickles into bad matchups for their other defensive backs.
Hank Gola (NY Daily News) ranks them 6th: Forget the non-call. Defense wasn’t up to task on third down.
Mike Florio (Pro Football Talk) ranks them 6th: Calm down, Pats fans. You still have the Tuck Rule game.
Chris Burke (SI) ranks them 6th: The good news for the Patriots is that after a slow start to the season, Tom Brady is once again at his most efficient. He didn't throw an incomplete pass in the third quarter of New England's loss to the Panthers, and completed 25-of-29 passes at one point. The bad news? The Pats don't want to have to rely on such surgical precision when they welcome the Broncos to Foxboro on Sunday night, but they may have to -- especially if there's any slippage in their generally underrated defense.
USA Today ranks them 6th: Officials picking up flag on the final play was a bitter pill to swallow, but a 2-3 road record should dredge up the most angst.
ESPN experts rank them 6th: Tom Brady has nine wins (regular season and playoffs) against Peyton Manning. Since 1993, no quarterback has more wins against another quarterback.
Rick Drummond (Pro Football Focus) ranks them 6th: No time to sulk, the Patriots have to rebound from falling short against the Panthers to return home and host Denver in the Week 12 Brady-Manning reunion game. New England joins the Chiefs in stepping aside to let the Panthers move up.
Frank Schwab (Yahoo! Sports) ranks them 6th: I think a penalty should have been called against Carolina on the last play. But, let's also not forget that the Patriots got away with a blatant holding on their game-winning touchdown pass against New Orleans. It goes both ways.
Ryan Van Bibber (SB Nation) ranks them 6th: Bill Belichick's "take away what you do best" approach on defense ran into its Kryptonite - an offense that does a lot of things kinda well while counting on its defense to hold you under 21. That formula, plus an untimely Ridley fumble, doomed the Pats to defeat on the road. Hey, if we can call a Pick Six a "Schaub", we can call a goal-line fumble a "Ridley." Tom Brady continues to look far better when he's throwing to professional receivers, but that Panther defense made one play too many.
Joe Fortenbaugh (Nat'l Football Post) ranks them 6th.
Pat Kirwan (CBS Sports) ranks them 7th: Brady and the offense must outgun opponents because of all the injuries on defense. The Pats will still win the AFC East. But how far can they go in the playoffs?
Joe Zarbano (WEEI) ranks them 7th: Looks like the Patriots offense is on the verge of becoming the more productive unit on the team with the array of injuries suffered on defense and the return of some key players on offense. Despite the loss, it’s difficult to feel worse about the Pats after Monday night.
AVERAGE RANK: 5.9 (-1.2)