Ugly schmugly. Patriots won two weeks in a row. Period. And I'm fully in favor of the team figuring out its issues while continuing to win. It also helps to have a somewhat hazy memory of the full details from the first three games. Most Rational Ranking of the Week Award goes to Pat Kirwan for his anti-sky-is-falling approach:
The Patriots eke out a close win at home vs. the Raiders and everyone wonders what's wrong with New England. Tom Brady's protection is a concern, but the defense has only allowed only 36 points in three games and that's a big improvement.
Up next is a tricky stretch of the schedule, beginning with the prime-time Monday Night Football game in Kansas City. After that is a short week to prepare for another prime-time Sunday Night Football game against the 3-0 Bengals (who will be coming off a bye), a 1:00 pm Sunday game in Buffalo and a third prime-time Thursday Night Football game at home against the Jets. Two division games and two conference games - three of them in prime time - in four weeks. Wow. Good thing I'm an optimist, and can't wait to see how the Patriots pull it off.
Around the AFC East:
Buffalo (2-1) at Houston (2-1) -- LONDON: Miami (1-2) vs. Oakland (0-3) -- NY Jets (1-2) vs. Detroit (2-1)
Notable AFC Matchups:
Baltimore (2-1) vs. Carolina (2-1)
Indianapolis (1-2) vs. Tennessee (1-2)
Pittsburgh (2-1) vs. Tampa Bay (0-3)
San Diego (2-1) vs. Jacksonville (0-3)
Nate Silver (FiveThirtyEight) ranks them 4th.
Frank Schwab (Yahoo! Sports) ranks them 4th: Tom Brady's 5.5 yards per attempt is 42nd among 49 players who have thrown one pass this season. Among regular starting quarterbacks, only Derek Carr and Ryan Tannehill average less. It's a big problem.
Mike Florio (ProFootballTalk) ranks them 5rd: Given the way he secured the game-clinching interception, maybe Vince Wilfork should be moved to tight end.
Pat Kirwan (CBS Sports) ranks them 5th: The Patriots eke out a close win at home vs. the Raiders and everyone wonders what's wrong with New England. Tom Brady's protection is a concern, but the defense has only allowed only 36 points in three games and that's a big improvement.
Mark Maske (Washington Post) ranks them 5th: The win over the Raiders wasn’t particularly impressive but the Patriots managed to improve to 2-1. They haven’t really gotten going yet but the play of the revamped secondary has been a bright spot. New England ranks first in the league in pass defense.
Tom Layberger (Masslive) ranks them 6th: New England could not score inside the five, the running backs failed to average as little as three yards per carry and it took an interception from a 325-pound lineman (Vince Wilfork) to seal the deal Sunday. It was a good thing the Patriots' opponent was Oakland.
Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News) ranks them 6th: Other than Rob Gronkowski going back to end-zone spiking, there’s not much buzz offensively with Tom Brady having a slow start behind a shaky line. Darrelle Revis hasn’t quite delivered yet, but they’re still winning. What’s next: at Kansas City, a loud Monday night affair in Arrowhead.
Peter King (The MMQB) ranks them 7th: It looked like Tom Brady got hit significantly 15 times by the Raiders on Sunday. Wait until the Bengals come to Foxboro in a couple of weeks.
Elliot Harrison (NFL.com) ranks them 7th: Ugly victory. Of course, those still count. It's OK for people to call Sunday's win over the Raiders an escape. It's also safe to question the Patriots' offense, specifically Tom Brady's play. New England is getting nada downfield; the Pats' "long" play of the day went for all of 22 yards. We did have a Danny Amendola sighting, though! It was a drop in the end zone.
USA Today ranks them 7th: Didn't take them long to return to top of AFC East, but offense is clearly still not firing on all (or even most) cylinders.
Joe Fortenbaugh (Nat'l Football Post) ranks them 7th
Pete Prisco (CBS Sports) ranks them 7th: Yeah, they beat the Raiders. But it wasn't pretty. The offense has to get it going.
The AP Pro32 ranks them 7th.
Patrick Imig (Cold Hard Football Facts) ranks them 8th using their Quality Stats rankings.
Chris Burke (SI) ranks them 8th: "We did enough this game," Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski said, via WEEI.com, after his team's 16-9 win over Oakland, "but that’s not always going to get the job done." No kidding. It barely got the job done this week. There is not a whole lot of time to get better, either -- starting Monday, the Patriots play four games in 18 days, capped by a Thursday nighter versus the Jets.
Danny Kelly (SB Nation) ranks them 10th.
Dan Schneier (Fox Sports) ranks them 11th: The Patriots got the victory, but it wasn’t pretty as they struggled to move the ball on the ground and only scored one offensive touchdown against a previously porous Raiders defense. LT Nate Solder was a whipping boy for a third consecutive week as he allowed three hits on Tom Brady, who completed 24 passes for just 234 yards. They won’t draw the Vikings and Raiders every week, and this team needs to start moving the ball more consistently.
Hank Gola (NY Daily News) ranks them 12th: Something’s not right when they struggle to beat the Raiders.
AVERAGE RANK: 7.0