Wow, what a difference a week - and an offensive shellacking of the Bears - makes. The Patriots have been bumped up an average of 5 points in the rankings, with many of the experts scoffing at those who could have ever thought New England and Tom Brady were finished. I guess the experts also ignored the voices (cough Broncos fans cough) claiming the Patriots haven't beaten any good teams. A win is still a win folks.
Last year the Patriots had the same 6-2 record at the midway point of the season, with each game an adventure. In contrast, this season has started off slow with the offense steadily picking up steam in October. Here's hoping their unbeaten streak extends into November and at least against the Denver Mannings.
Around the AFC East:
New England (6-2) vs. Broncos (6-1)
Miami (4-3) vs. San Diego (5-3)
NY Jets (1-7) at Kansas City (4-3)
Buffalo (5-3) BYE
Notable AFC Matchups:
Baltimore (5-3) at Pittsburgh (5-3)
Indianapolis (5-3) at NY Giants (3-4)
Houston (4-4) vs. Philadelphia (5-2)
Cincinnati (4-2-1) vs. Jacksonville (1-7)
Cleveland (4-3) vs.Tampa Bay (1-6)
Oakland (0-7) at Seattle (4-3)
Nate Silver (FiveThirtyEight) ranks them 2nd using its Elo Ratings.
Andy Hart (Patriots Football Weekly) ranks them 2nd using the Wilson-Hart power index.
Chris Burke (SI) ranks them 2nd: Panic over the Patriots is about on par with freaking out over the hero's fate in a horror movie: He's going to be fine, even if there are a few moments that make you squirm. New England's won four straight and has a chance to make a real statement against Denver this Sunday.
Hank Gola (NY Daily News) ranks them 3rd: What was that about Tom Brady slipping?
USA Today ranks them 3rd: Since Tom Brady morphed into a horrible player last month, he's thrown 14 TDs and zero INTs while New England has gone 4-0.
Pete Prisco (CBS Sports) ranks them 3rd: It's funny to see them up this high considering where they were a month ago. They've righted things in a big way.
Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News) ranks them 3rd: Rob Gronkowski has gone back to full Gronk, and the Bears just felt the wrath of his troika of spikes. He’s back to being the best all-around receiving tight end in the game, just in time for the big shootout ahead.
Mark Maske (Washington Post) ranks them 3rd: If TE Rob Gronkowski stays healthy and in the lineup, he’s a difference-maker on offense and the Patriots are a contender to win the Super Bowl title that has eluded them since QB Tom Brady and Coach Bill Belichick won their third in the 2004 season. Gronkowski’s re-emergence has coincided with Brady’s four-game revival since the ugly Monday night loss in Kansas City. Sunday’s game against the Broncos could be a significant factor in determining the top seed in the AFC playoffs.
The AP Pro32 ranks them 3rd.
Tom Layberger (Masslive) ranks them 3rd: In four games since a Monday night mauling at Kansas City, Tom Brady, who threw as many touchdown passes (5) as incompletions in Sunday's win over the Bears, has thrown for 1,268 yards and 14 touchdowns without an interception. Those 14 TDs are as many or more than what 24 teams have on the season. He will get to trade TD passes with Peyton Manning this week.
ESPN Experts rank them 3rd: Tom Brady finished 20-for-20 Sunday targeting Brandon LaFell and Rob Gronkowski for a combined 273 yards and four touchdowns. October was very friendly to the Patriots (4-0).
Joe Fortenbaugh (Nat'l Football Post) ranks them 3rd.
Frank Schwab (Yahoo! Sports) ranks them 3rd: Rob Gronkowski isn't the only reason the Patriots are back to being legit Super Bowl contenders, but he's probably the main one. How many tight ends in NFL history have had that kind of impact?
Elliot Harrison (NFL.com) ranks them 3rd: Power Mover of the Week -- Every single one of Rob Gronkowski's football cards next year will feature some Bears defensive back or linebacker hanging off of him -- or maybe just trailing 5 yards behind. Meanwhile, Tom Brady was 30-for-35, with nearly every incompletion being a drop. Solid ascent for New England.
Danny Kelly (SB Nation) ranks them 3rd: Patriots put up a fifty-burger on the Bears, and appear to have regained whatever mojo they were missing on offense early in the year. It may be no coincidence, of course, that Rob Gronkowski is back healthy and integrated into the passing game. He caught three touchdowns in Week 8. Tom Brady went a cool 30-of-35 passing for 354 yards and five touchdowns. New England has now won four in a row.
Patrick Imig (Cold Hard Football Facts) ranks them 3rd using their Quality Stats rankings.
Pat Kirwan (CBS Sports) ranks them 4th: Since the bad loss to Kansas City, the Patriots are 4-0 and averaging close to 40 points -- and Tom Brady is on fire. The loss of Chandler Jones will hurt the defense especially with the Broncos coming to Foxboro, but Brady is 86-14 at home.
Dan Schneier (Fox Sports) ranks them 4th: This week we found out Rob Gronkowski was back. He scored three times, but on the last one Gronk trucked and stiff-armed Bears’ defenders to will his way into the end zone. A healthy Gronkowski leads to a very healthy Patriots offense.
Peter King (The MMQB) ranks them 4th: Kansas City 41, New England 14 seems like five years ago, not five weeks ago.
Josh Sanchez (Fansided) ranks them 4th: Suddenly Tom Brady has too many weapons. The once stagnant offense was able to easily handle a once proud Chicago Bears defense. Tom Brady had his way with the secondary as the Patriots hung up a 50-burger and recorded five touchdowns through the air.
Mike Florio (ProFootballTalk) ranks them 5th: To get a full measure of revenge against the Bears for Super Bowl XX, the Pats should have let Vince Wilfork score a touchdown.
AVERAGE RANK: 3.0 (+5.1)