This is it. The final stretch. The Patriots are already in San Diego preparing to face the Chargers, who Jason La Canfora calls the hottest team in the AFC. [Really??] San Diego needs a win to keep its playoff edge over four 7-5 teams on their heels just waiting for a chance to bump them out.
Patriots need the win to keep its No. 1 seed with home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Coming off a loss in Green Bay I think the Patriots will want this one more and come away with a hard-fought win Sunday.
As an aside, last year at this time the 9-3 Patriots were at home preparing for the 4-8 Browns and the (gulp) unforeseen loss of Rob Gronkowski. What a difference a year makes. Gronk has been an unstoppable force, getting stronger as the weeks have ticked by. He's smarter too, post ACL. I'm just keeping my fingers crossed. This is it folks. Pressure's on. It's Show time!
Around the AFC East:
New England (9-3) at San Diego (8-4)
Miami (7-5) vs. Baltimore (7-5)
Buffalo (7-5) at Denver (9-3)
NY Jets (2-10) at Minnesota (5-7)
Notable AFC Matchups:
Cincinnati (8-3-1) vs. Pittsburgh (7-5)
Indianapolis (8-4) at Cleveland (7-5)
Kansas City (7-5) at Arizona (9-3)
Houston (6-6) at Jacksonville (2-10)
Oakland (1-11) vs. San Francisco (7-5)
Frank Schwab (Yahoo! Sports) ranks them 1st: I wasn’t really surprised by Sunday’s outcome at Lambeau, and I doubt many others were either. Nothing that happened on Sunday changed my mind about how good this team is.
ESPN Experts rank them 2nd: Holding the tiebreaker over Denver is critical after dropping Sunday's game in Green Bay. Winning out against the Chargers and all three division foes keeps the Pats in Foxborough.
Dan Schneier (Fox Sports) ranks them 2nd: With one of the NFL’s best pass defenses, a balanced offense, and one of the best coaching staffs, the Patriots could be one of January’s best teams. Tom Brady will need to hit some key completions on the deep and intermediate throws that he has sometimes struggled with.
Pat Kirwan (CBS Sports) ranks them 2nd: The Patriots lost a tough game in Green Bay but it could have a silver lining. Tom Brady will work off this loss to motivate his team and the top seed in the AFC is vulnerable right now. Look for New England to win out.
Josh Sanchez (Fansided) ranks them 2nd: The seemingly unbeatable New England Patriots finally met their match in Week 13, as they fell to the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Despite the loss to the top NFC team, New England has proven that they are the cream of the crop in the AFC and there is no reason to worry about Tom Brady and company regrouping for December.
Chris Burke (SI) ranks them 2nd: Bill Belichick can be, shall we say, a little standoffish at times, particularly after his team loses. So it's noteworthy that he both praised his team's effort and talked up the Packers -- "They are a really good football team," Belichick said after the game. "They have good everything." Belichick seemed aware that his team got the outcome it deserved. He also knows that this result won't mean much if the Patriots take care of business from here out.
The AP Pro32 ranks them 2nd.
Tom Layberger (Masslive) ranks them 2nd: New England did not turn the ball over, Tom Brady was sacked only once and the team committed only four penalties. Reads like a portion of the ingredients in the recipe required for defeating the Packers, doesn't it? Except for the timing. Two of those four penalties gave Green Bay first downs during their first two scoring drives and the sack took place late in the fourth quarter with the Pats driving.
Elliot Harrison (NFL.com) ranks them 2nd: Yes, the Patriots lost at Lambeau. Big whoopie. What a game. If Sunday was a Super Bowl preview, then we are due for a much better matchup than the last time these two franchises faced off on Super Sunday. On another note, watching Tom Brady's visceral reaction when Randall Cobb caught the game-clinching first down shows you precisely why he is the best quarterback the NFL has seen since Joe Montana hung 'em up 20 years ago.
Peter King (The MMQB) ranks them 2nd: Not a deadly loss, but the Packers were better on their home tundra. And now the Patriots have to play the suddenly dangerous Chargers in San Diego on Sunday. The Patriots flew straight from Green Bay to San Diego on Sunday night instead of flying back to Providence post-game and making the coast-to-coast trip late in the week.
USA Today ranks them 2nd: It won't garner much attention, but New England got next to nothing from its special teams during loss at Lambeau.
Hank Gola (NY Daily News) ranks them 2nd: Tom Brady can’t believe comeback bid failed.
Mark Maske (Washington Post) ranks them 2nd: The margin for error for securing the top seed in the AFC playoffs becomes smaller now. The Patriots still hold the tie-breaker advantage over the Broncos after beating them last month. The Patriots face a tough game Sunday night in San Diego. If they can find a way to win that one, the chances are they’ll manage to get through their closing three-game stretch against AFC East foes unscathed.
Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News) ranks them 2nd: Darrelle Revis and their defense did their best to take everything good away from Green Bay, but in the end, the Patriots fell short in firepower. The good news, they’re still the best team in the AFC and may be headed to a Super Bowl rematch, anyway.
Pete Prisco (CBS Sports) ranks them 2nd: They didn't play that well against the Packers, but it was close. They stay as the best AFC team.
Andy Hart (Patriots Football Weekly) ranks them 2nd using the Wilson-Hart power index.
Mike Florio (ProFootballTalk) ranks them 2nd: A couple of years ago, Tom Brady opted for a periodic primal scream. After Sunday’s game was clinched for Green Bay, he went with three primal "F" bombs.
Ryan Van Bibber (SB Nation) ranks them 4th: The Patriots are still pretty good too and still have a leg up in the race for the AFC's top seed thanks to their win against the Broncos a month ago. Tom Brady's connection with Rob Gronkowski was as strong as ever against the Packers -- the uber bro caught seven passes for 98 yards. Had Gronk been able to hold on to a would-be touchdown pass on second-and-9 with 3:31 left in the game, we might be talking about a completely different arrangement at the top of the rankings this week.
Patrick Imig (Cold Hard Football Facts) ranks them 4th using their Quality Stats rankings.
AVERAGE RANK: 2.2 (-0.8)