Okay, I admit it. First drive by the Vikings Sunday (7 plays, 80 yds, TD, 4.06 min.) was more than a little annoying and spurred some black humor from our crowd about the so-called improved Patriots defense. First drive by the Patriots (3 plays, 9 yds, Punt, 1.29 min.) was downright deflating. Chris Burke called it nauseating and I won't quibble with the degree of churning discomfort beginning to boil.
Admit it, Patriots fans: You felt a little nauseous when Matt Cassel marched Minnesota down the field for an opening-drive touchdown Sunday, right? New England scored 30 unanswered after that, so all is well again. By the way, the Vikings' eventual meltdown wasn't all Cassel's fault. New England's defense was all over the place, from Chandler Jones up front to Darrelle Revis and Logan Ryan in the secondary.
What followed was the defense coming to life, special teams making highlight-reel plays, the running game finding effectiveness, and that sickening feeling leaving New England and heading north in a hurry. The only Patriot not completely happy was Tom Brady, who is still in the process of getting on the same page as his receivers. If there is ever a time to figure it out on the fly, it's this week's home opener against the 0-2 Raiders. Dobson, Amendola, LaFell, Thompkins ... this is your chance, fellas!
Around the AFC East: Note - The whole division plays at home this week.
Buffalo (2-0) vs. San Diego (1-1) -- Miami (1-1) vs. Kansas City (0-2) -- NY Jets (1-1) vs. Chicago (1-1)
Notable AFC Matchups:
Pittsburgh (1-1) at Carolina (2-0)
Denver (2-0) at Seattle (1-1)
Houston (2-0) at NY Giants (0-2)
Tennessee (1-1) at Cincinnati (2-0)
Indianapolis (0-2) at Jacksonville (0-2)
Mike Florio (ProFootballTalk) ranks them 3rd: Cries of "the Pats are done" became "the Pats done kicked Minnesota’s ass" on Sunday.
Nate Silver (FiveThirtyEight) ranks them 4th.
Tom Layberger (Masslive) ranks them 5th: Penalties were a problem, but a strong running game in a turnover-free effort got New England on the board in 2014 with a win over the Vikings. Now the Pats come home for the first time and should find themselves on the sunny side of .500 following their game versus Oakland.
Pat Kirwan (CBS Sports) ranks them 5th: The Patriots offense looked much better in Week 2 and the six sacks by the defense was just what the doctor ordered. The Patriots should have little trouble with the visiting Raiders this week.
Peter King (The MMQB) ranks them 5th: It helped that Adrian Peterson didn’t play, but the Pats would have creamed the Vikes anyway, as long as Matt Cassel turned it over the way he did.
Mark Maske (Washington Post) ranks them 5th: DE Chandler Jones had one of last weekend’s most eye-catching plays with his TD after blocking a FG attempt, scooping up the ball off a bounce and outracing the Minnesota special teams to the end zone. It was breathtaking athleticism for someone his size and it turned what could have been only a 17-10 lead into a 24-7 advantage. The Patriots bounced back from their opening loss to the Dolphins and now get to host the hapless-thus-far Raiders this weekend.
ESPN Experts rank them 5th: Tom Brady won his 149th career game Sunday, passing John Elway for third most among quarterbacks. A home opener against the Raiders next could be number 150.
Dan Schneier (Fox Sports) ranks them 6th: Bill Belichick has a long history of winning the next game after a loss and Sunday was no different. The interior offensive line fixed pass protection issues from the week before, but the real story was the play from breakout DE/OLB Chandler Jones. He made his seven pressures and five stops in the run game look like child’s play when he blocked a field goal, recovered the ball and returned it for a touchdown.
USA Today ranks them 6th: DE Chandler Jones (two sacks, 58-yard TD off FG he blocked) may have officially arrived as a dominant force.
Pete Prisco (CBS Sports) ranks them 7th: They looked like the Patriots we've come to know against the Vikings. The defense rebounded in a big way.
Patrick Imig (Cold Hard Football Facts) ranks them 7th using their Quality Stats rankings (Up 19 points from Week 1).
The AP Pro32 ranks them 7th.
Chris Burke (SI) ranks them 8th: Admit it, Patriots fans: You felt a little nauseous when Matt Cassel marched Minnesota down the field for an opening-drive touchdown Sunday, right? New England scored 30 unanswered after that, so all is well again. By the way, the Vikings' eventual meltdown wasn't all Cassel's fault. New England's defense was all over the place, from Chandler Jones up front to Darrelle Revis and Logan Ryan in the secondary.
Hank Gola (NY Daily News) ranks them 8th: Defense has field day with turnovers.
Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News) ranks them 8th: Tom Brady had a quiet day at the office in Minnesota, something they will gladly accept as long as their defense forces so many problems and their running game does the job. Brady will get going sometime soon. What’s next: vs. Oakland, when Brady probably won’t need to do much again.
Danny Kelly (SB Nation) ranks them 9th: The Patriots easily handled the Vikings.
Elliot Harrison (NFL.com) ranks them 10th: I guess that answers that question. Gloom and doom averted, New England starts even again with the Raiders coming to town Sunday. Thankfully for the Patriots, the defense fared a little better in Minnesota than it did in the Week 1 loss in Miami, routinely pressuring Vikings quarterback Matt Cassel, who was sacked six times and forced into making some off-the-mark throws. Stevan Ridley, meanwhile, ran for New England with the determination of a man who once lost his job for fumbling. Weird.
AVERAGE RANK: 6.3