This Sunday marks the last of the three-in-a-row so-called fluff games in the middle of the Patriots schedule, with a home game against the Los Angeles Rams. The Patriots won the first two but didn't steamroll the opposition in the process. That has become a noted cause for concern among the power rankings experts, folks who if they found Felger & Mazz somewhere on Satellite Radio, would probably all be nodding along in agreement during their afternoon commutes.
Injuries are also a concern, especially Tom Brady's "mysterious"?? knee injury and Rob Gronkowski's back. Some in the media are giving Brady jabs for being injured at all (See, all that health crap didn't save you after all, did it?), and they have Gronk voted off the island at the end of the season. I guess overreaction isn't just for Monday's anymore.
New England has won the past three matchups, outscoring the Rams 108-45, and I believe they'll extend that streak to four. Only this time, it will end with Brady being crowned as the winningest quarterback in NFL history -- even sweeter coming at the expense of a Patriots-hating Jeff Fisher team. And, by the way Coach Fisher... if you don't know who Dion Lewis and James White are by now, you most likely will by the end of the game.
Around the AFC East::
New England (9-2) vs. Los Angeles (4-7)
Miami (7-4) at Baltimore (6-5)
Buffalo (6-5) at Oakland (9-2)
NY Jets (3-8) vs. Indianapolis (5-6)
Kansas City (8-3) at Atlanta (7-4)
Houston (6-5) at Green Bay (5-6)
Denver (7-4) at Jacksonville (2-9)
Pittsburgh (6-5) vs. NY Giants (8-3)
San Diego (5-6) vs. Tampa Bay (6-5)
Cincinnati (3-7) vs. Philadelphia (5-6)
1st - Manish Mehta (NY Daily News): Tom Brady could probably win a ring with a bunch of my high school buddies. The one-legged 39-year-old man beat the Jets despite a balky knee on Sunday. Doubt him at your own risk.
2nd - Frank Schwab (Yahoo! Sports): The Patriots needed a fourth-and-4 catch by James White on Sunday to avoid an upset at a terrible Jets team. It’s picking nits a bit but the last time we saw the Patriots look truly dominant was probably in a 41-25 win over the Buffalo Bills. That was Oct. 30.
2nd - Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News): Tom Brady on a wounded knee is still Tom Brady. New England should worry that its pass defense still has issues, but its passing game is finding new ways to be dangerous. This week: vs. Rams, Sunday.
2nd - Mark Maske (Washington Post): The Patriots found a way late to beat the Jets at the Meadowlands. Stunning, huh? Did anyone expect anything different? The New England defense played well, an encouraging sign for the Patriots. But QB Tom Brady clearly wasn’t himself after missing practice time last week because of a knee injury and TE Rob Gronkowski exited with a back injury after missing a game because of a chest injury. All of that, obviously, is far less encouraging.
2nd - Staff (AP Pro32).
2nd - Elliot Harrison (NFL.com): Escape from New York. That's what Snake Plissken did with an eye patch, and that's what the Patriots did Sunday ... except their hero wasn't a leading man in the mold of Kurt Russell or Tom Brady, but rather a tattoo-bearing 30-something defensive end. Chris Long, who entered Week 12 with one sack, sped 'round the left tackle and dove for Ryan Fitzpatrick's cocked arm during the most important stanza of Patriots- Jets. And Long was simply one of a pack of unlikely saviors. James White, Malcolm Mitchell and Chris Hogan all came up huge on the Patriots' final scoring drive. Trey Flowers hopped on that errant football Long forced. The premier team in the AFC, fueled by many bargain-brand players -- well, this week, anyway.
2nd - Pete Prisco (CBS Sports): It wasn't pretty against the Jets, but that's what good teams do. They find a way.
2nd - Cameron DaSilva (Fox Sports): The Jets surprisingly gave the Patriots some trouble on Sunday, but Tom Brady and LeGarrette Blount eventually put the game on ice down the stretch with solid play. The secondary struggled against Brandon Marshall and Quincy Enunwa, which is something to watch going forward. Few teams are as good as New England on offense, but the defense is becoming a liability. This may have been the gut-check win the Pats needed.
2nd - Jenny Vrentas (The MMQB): It was clear on Sunday that Tom Brady’s mysterious knee injury was bothering him to some degree. We all know the Patriots are notoriously tight-lipped on injuries, so it’s hard to know how serious it is, but does it have the potential to linger into January?
2nd - Luke Miller (Metro): When the Jets jumped out to a 10-0 lead, it looked like somehow the Patriots might finish the day just a game ahead of the Dolphins in the AFC East. Of course the Patriots are the Patriots and the Jets are the Jets and here we are. How Rob Gronkowski’s and Martellus Bennett’s injuries play out will be huge for the Patriots down the stretch in a season where several of their weapons have been underperforming or off the field. This team feels more like the pre-18-and-1 Patriots than any recent iterations.
3rd - Lorenzo Reyes (USA Today): Tom Brady's next victory (No. 201) will officially make him winningest quarterback in NFL history, surpassing old buddy Peyton Manning.
3rd - Adam Stites (SB Nation): After Week 11, it looked like there was a clear top tier of four teams in the NFL before a dropoff to the rest of the field. There was the Dallas Cowboys, Seattle Seahawks, New England Patriots, and Oakland Raiders, and then there was everyone else. On Thanksgiving, Dallas looked the part, but the next three teams all had their hands full Sunday. All three trailed in the fourth quarter, and while the Patriots and Raiders were able to rally and improve to 9-2, the Seahawks were unable to find their offense against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
3rd - Experts (ESPN): QB Tom Brady is always the talk when it comes to the Patriots, but the defense has once again fallen under the radar. The Patriots have held opponents to fewer than 20 points seven times this season, tied with the Chiefs and Seahawks for most such games. The Rams and their low-powered offense are next for New England.
3rd - Mike Florio (ProFootballTalk): Avocado ice cream apparently has magical healing powers. Unless it’s the toppings.
3rd - Chris Burke (SI): The Patriots faced a top-10 strength of schedule back in April when the NFL released its 2016 slate. It hasn’t played out quite that way. Just three of New England’s 11 games have come against teams currently in the playoff picture, and the only one since Tom Brady returned to the lineup was his lone loss of the year (Week 10 vs. Seattle).