Every year it's a new animal. Patriots currently hold a 7-2 record, a two-game lead in the AFC East, a 2-2 home/away record and the number one or two spot in the rankings. In 2013 at this same time the Patriots were also 7-2, with a two-game lead in the division, a 2-2 home/away record and the number four-six spot in the rankings. Go figure.
New England lost coming off a bye in Week 11 last year, a Monday night road game in Carolina (blasted Clete Blakeman). This year the Patriots will again be on the road coming off a bye week. Here's hoping for a different twist this year with a win in Indy. It's definitely doable, would provide that all-important buffer zone in the division, and keep an edge over the Broncos. Lots of good games in Week 11, notably the Bills-Dolphins matchup taking place tonight.
Around the AFC East:
New England (7-2) at Indy (6-3)
Buffalo (5-4) at Miami (5-4)
NY Jets (2-8) BYE
Notable AFC matchups:
Denver (7-2) at St. Louis (3-6)
Cleveland (6-3) vs. Houston (4-5)
Pittsburgh (6-4) at Tennessee (2-7)
Kansas City (6-3) vs. Seattle (6-3)
Cincinnati (5-3-1) at New Orleans (4-5)
San Diego (5-4) vs. Oakland (0-9)
ESPN Experts rank them 1st: Tom Brady's .727 winning percentage (8-3) against the Colts is the best among quarterbacks with at least 10 starts (Elias). Don't blame Andrew Luck -- most were against that Manning guy.
Dan Schneier (Fox Sports) ranks them 1st: Coming out of the bye week, Bill Belichick is likely to have some new ideas for how to attack on both offense and defense, but the presence of Rob Gronkowski in the offense and a top-tier pass defense make the Patriots a tough team to beat.
Andy Hart (Patriots Football Weekly) ranks them 1st using the Wilson-Hart power index.
Frank Schwab (Yahoo! Sports) ranks them 1st: Fascinating matchup on Sunday night at Indianapolis. If the Patriots win that, it's practically inevitable that the Pats and Broncos will be the top two AFC seeds, in some order.
Josh Sanchez (Fansided) ranks them 1st: The New England Patriots were on a bye in Week 10 and their ranking remains unchanged.
Chris Burke (SI) ranks them 1st: Want to know the real not-so-secret reason behind the Patriots' offensive success this season? They're not turning the ball over. They coughed it up twice in a Week 1 loss to Miami, three times in a Week 4 loss to Kansas City and once total in their other seven games. Last season, the Colts finished with 14 turnovers; every other team had at least 18. New England's currently on pace for between 10 and 11 turnovers in 2014.
The AP Pro32 ranks them 1st.
Tom Layberger (Masslive) ranks them 1st: A bye is the last thing New England may have wanted considering they are averaging 40 points during their five-game win streak. Then again, with the Colts, Lions and Packers lined up the next three weeks a breather at this juncture might not be such a bad thing. The break also allowed Bill Belichick to address concerns with the number of penalties for which the Pats continue to get flagged.
Elliot Harrison(NFL.com) ranks them 1st: The Patriots, who had the week off, retain their top spot. The No. 2 team won, but suffered a substantial injury (again). The No. 3 team won, but against an unsubstantial team. Thus, New England holds the catbird seat.
Peter King (The MMQB) ranks them 1st: Average points per game during current 5-0 streak: 40.3. Average points per game by Denver in 2013, when the Broncos set the NFL single-season scoring record: 37.9.
USA Today ranks them 1st: Not a bad bye week - rest, relaxation, time to study Andrew Luck and defeats for your two closest divisional threats.
Nate Silver (FiveThirtyEight) ranks them 1st using its Elo Ratings. Who’s the best team in the NFL? The answer is as muddled as at any point in the season. According to our Elo ratings, the answer is technically the New England Patriots, who overtook the Denver Broncos after beating them in Week 9.
Hank Gola (NY Daily News) ranks them 1st: Hot streak to be tested in Indy.
Mark Maske (Washington Post) ranks them 1st: The Patriots didn’t play Sunday while on their bye week but still had a productive weekend. Their closest challengers in the AFC East, the Bills and Dolphins, both lost. The Bengals and Steelers lost to fall further behind in the race for the AFC’s No. 1 playoff seed. The Patriots beat the Broncos in their final game before their bye but face a difficult post-bye schedule with a game this Sunday night at Indianapolis, followed by matchups with the Lions and Packers.
Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News) ranks them 2nd: Rob Gronkowski had a bye to do whatever we like to imagine Gronk does during his time off. On the field, he’s been the beast we’ve grown to know and love to give Tom Brady and the Patriots another AFC title-caliber offense.
Pete Prisco(CBS Sports) ranks them 2nd: They found their groove before the bye. They have to hope the time off didn't kill it. I doubt it did.
Danny Kelly (SB Nation) ranks them 2nd: The Patriots spent Sunday on their bye week couches resting up and getting ready for the stretch run.
Pat Kirwan (CBS Sports) ranks them 2nd: The Patriots were on a bye and are getting healthy for a run to the playoffs. The Patriots have been on fire for the last five weeks averaging 36 points per game.
Mike Florio (ProFootballTalk) ranks them 2nd: Bill Belichick the coach has more than made up for the failures of Bill Belichick the de facto G.M.
Patrick Imig (Cold Hard Football Facts) ranks them 5th using their Quality Stats rankings.
AVERAGE RANK: 1.5 (+0.1)