Everyone comfy? All squished in? As evidenced below, the New England bandwagon is getting full and everyone seems to be all-in and ready for the next Belichick production: a new episode of his hit series Star of the Day. One thing we can be pretty sure of is that this week's winner is likely to be a player other than Jonas Gray. But, hey, at least it's different from last year's series, Survivor: Foxborough. That was an exciting season too, but ultimately it's hard to win with so many key players carted off the island.
The best part is that right now the Patriots hold the number one seed in the AFC and are in control of whether they get the first round bye plus home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Certainly it's too early for serious playoff talk, and I don't want to wish the next six weeks away, but at least it's a solid ledge the team has climbed itself up on.
I'm predicting one more home win at Gillette Stadium against the Lions this Sunday. Shocker, I know.
Around the AFC East:
New England (8-2) vs. Detroit (7-3)
Miami (6-4) at Denver (7-3)
Buffalo (5-5) vs. NY Jets (2-8)
Notable AFC Matchups:
Kansas City (7-3) at Oakland (0-10)
Cincinnati (6-3-1) at Houston (5-5)
San Diego (6-4) vs. St. Louis (4-6)
Indy (6-4) vs. Jacksonville (1-9)
Baltimore (6-4) at New Orleans (4-6)
Cleveland (6-4) at Atlanta (4-6)
Tennessee (2-8) at Philadelphia (7-3)
ESPN Experts rank them 1st: Like we've been saying all year, you must stop Jonas Gray to beat the Patriots. Well, maybe not, but 201 yards and a franchise-record four rushing touchdowns buried the Colts.
Dan Schneier (Fox Sports) ranks them 1st: The Patriots are winning games by dominating the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. For all the credit Rob Gronkowski gets as a receiver, it’s his blocking that sets him apart as the NFL’s best tight end.
Pat Kirwan (CBS Sports) ranks them 1st: The 42-20 win over Indianapolis was so complete the Patriots are bumped to No. 1, even though the Cardinals (No. 1 last week) beat Detroit. New England has beaten the other three AFC division leaders by an average score of 43-19 and are in position to play at home throughout the playoffs.
Frank Schwab (Yahoo! Sports) ranks them 1st: The gap is pretty wide between Nos. 1 and No. 2 at this point. They could lose a game (and with that schedule, it's likely), and I'm not sure I'd drop them from this spot.
Josh Sanchez (Fansided) ranks them 1st: After enjoying a week off, the Patriots returned to the field in a big way. The Patriots not only found a way to beat the Indianapolis Colts at home, but they did so in impressive fashion with the team clicking on all cylinders.
Chris Burke (SI) ranks them 1st: .Not sure there has been a more defining moment than Rob Gronkowski blocking the Colts' Sergio Brown almost into the stands and stealing his lunch money. While several other contenders struggle to find their footing, the Patriots keep racking up signature wins. Like Gronkowski vs. Brown, this is a runaway train right now.
The AP Pro32 ranks them 1st.
Tom Layberger (Masslive) ranks them 1st: With 199 yards rushing at Indy not only did Jonas Gray more than double his career total, he also had more rushing attempts (38) than 24 of the 25 other teams in action during Week 11. His four rushing TDs were also one more than the team total coming in. The Patriots are averaging 40.5 points during their six-game win streak.
Elliot Harrison (NFL.com) ranks them 1st: New England certainly made its case for being the top dog on this chart of greatness. How about that Jonas Gray? Who expected that? No one -- save for his Uncle Poindexter, who started him on his fantasy team. Just two other players in Patriots history have rushed for more than Gray's 201 yards in a single game: Jim Nance, who had 208 yards in 1966 for the team then known as the Boston Patriots, and Tony Collins, who ran for 212 in 1983.
Peter King (The MMQB) ranks them 1st: Think the Pats are in the Colts’ heads? They’ve played three times since Andrew Luck walked on campus with the Colts. Scores: Pats 59-24, Pats 43-22, Pats 42-20.
USA Today ranks them 1st: If Bill Belichick REALLY knew what he was doing, he'd have started Jonas Gray last month. (Can't wait for his next trick.)
Nate Silver (FiveThirtyEight) ranks them 1st using its Elo Ratings.
Hank Gola (NY Daily News) ranks them 1st: We know Gronk’s a beast but Jonas Gray?
Mark Maske (Washington Post) ranks them 1st: They have beaten Peyton Manning and the Broncos and Andrew Luck and the Colts in their last two games. They have a one-game lead over the Broncos in the race for the AFC’s top playoff seed and hold the tie-breaker advantage over them. But the tests will continue to come for the Patriots, with the Lions and Packers up next on their schedule. Jonas Gray — who knew?
Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News) ranks them 1st: Jonas Gray gave them the missing ingredient of a power running game against Indianapolis, and the ability to continue to morph their offensive game plan for maximum results. They now have beaten all the other AFC division leaders.
Pete Prisco (CBS Sports) ranks them 2nd: They are really clicking on both sides of the ball now. They face a tough three-game stretch at home against the Lions, at Green Bay and at San Diego.
Danny Kelly (SB Nation) ranks them 2nd: The Patriots continue to nip at the Cardinals' heels for the top spot after dispatching a strong Colts squad in Indianapolis, 42-20. New England did the New England thing and leaned on the recently promoted Jonas Gray as its featured player, and he delivered to the tune of 199 yards and four touchdowns, the most prolific stat line for a running back in the NFL this year. The Patriots racked up 501 yards of offense while converting 9 of 12 on third downs and pushed their win streak to six games.
Andy Hart (Patriots Football Weekly) ranks them 2nd using the Wilson-Hart power index.
Mike Florio (ProFootballTalk) ranks them 2nd: In each of the last two games against the Colts, a different running back has scored four touchdowns.
Patrick Imig (Cold Hard Football Facts) ranks them 4th using their Quality Stats rankings.
AVERAGE RANK: 1.4 (+0.1)