Sunday's game was a bad one for the Patriots. Not only did they lose the game to the Denver Broncos, they have also lost tight end Rob Gronkowski and linebacker Dont'a Hightower to injuries. However, be assured that the team won't fret too long about the game.
They will quickly move on.
Chandler Jones already has, while the rest of the players as well as the coaching staff soon will – and you should too. After all, everything that could go wrong did go wrong against Denver. Injuries? Yes. An untimely turnover? Sure. Bad calls going the other way? Of course (not saying that's the sole reason the Patriots lost – because it isn't – but this can't be denied).
The thing is: games like this happen. What is important now for New England is to re-focus and not let the loss take a mental toll in addition to the physical one. Given the team's locker room culture, this should not be too big of a problem. And there are more reasons why the Patriots – despite seeing their undefeated streak end – are still in good form.
First, even though Sunday's loss against a conference rival hurts in the standings, the Patriots still control their own destiny when it comes to securing home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. They have one more victory than both the Broncos and Bengals, who still play each another in week 16. This means that the Patriots, as of now, have at least a 1.5 game lead over the number three seed, putting them in a very good position to earn a much needed first-round bye.
New England is also still in good form when you take a look at their remaining schedule. The toughest game left will arguably be against the 6-5 Houston Texans in two weeks. Obviously, the "any given Sunday"-aspect cannot be disregarded but the Patriots are the favorites in every game they have left to play. The team's relatively easy schedule also plays into its hands when it comes to managing the injuries on the roster.
We know that Julian Edelman will still be out the next couple of weeks and while we don't yet know the exact extent of the injuries suffered by Gronkowski and Hightower, early reports indicate that they will return this year. Furthermore, Danny Amendola and Jamie Collins are expected to soon return to the field, as both have started practicing again last week. Oh, and the offensive line is getting healthier as well, and should develop better chemistry in the process of doing so.
Despite the injuries, the Patriots came close to beating the Broncos in Denver. Of course, injuries happen and shouldn't be used as an automatic excuse for losing but the fact remains: New England currently has a lot of talent on the sidelines. Talent, that will re-join the rest of the active players at some point this season, adding much needed depth and playmaking ability – particularly when playoff time comes around.
The Patriots may have lost yesterday but are nevertheless in good shape in the AFC. While the race to the number one seed undoubtedly became more difficult, the team still runs it from the leading position.
Now, all they need to do is put Sunday's loss behind them and move on.
On to Philadelphia.