Welcome to the ‘Big-Buts Edition’ of this week’s Power Rankings, now with the cheeky Patriots finally able to crack the top 5. The experts want to give the team credit for another win but also insist on qualifiers:
But it’s against the Jets. But the defense looked terrible. But there was a questionable call that aided in their win. But it wasn’t a convincing win. But they still have a long way to go. But Brady is banged up, the O-line has issues and the run game is suspect. But they’ll be racking up the travel with tough games on the road ahead... etc...
It’s understandable the experts don’t want to get caught with their pants down by simply writing in ‘New England’ at the top of their rankings in Sharpie -- no matter how likely it is that’s where they’ll end up. Reality is, bottom-dwellers aside, right now both conferences are still up for grabs by any team. A win Sunday night against the Falcons, keeps the Patriots No. 1 in the division and in better position to catch the Chiefs.
Around the AFC East:
New England (4-2) vs. Atlanta (3-2)
Miami (3-2) vs. Jets (3-3)
Buffalo (3-2) vs. Tampa Bay (2-3)
Kansas City (5-1) at Oakland (2-4)
Pittsburgh (4-2) vs. Cincinnati (2-3)
Denver (3-2) at LA Chargers (2-4)
Tennessee (3-3) at Cleveland (0-6)
Jacksonville (3-3) at Indianapolis (2-4)
2nd - Mark Maske (Washington Post): There was every reason to believe that the Patriots would be back to being the Patriots and the Jets would be back to being the Jets on Sunday at the Meadowlands. And that happened … sort of. The Patriots won to move into first place in the AFC East. But it was a far-from-convincing victory, and it signals that there’s at least a chance this division will remain competitive all season.
3rd - Kevin Dillon (MassLive): The Patriots gave up more than 300 yards passing to Josh McCown, and did not move the ball particularly consistently on offense. So why do they move up three spots? The Patriots won a close game, which is better than several other of the league’s best teams have done. They also still have Tom Brady, who has performed like an MVP candidate early in the year. The Super Bowl rematch in Foxborough should be a fun one.
3rd - Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News): Tom Brady is a little banged up, and there are other kinks in the offensive machine including so-so line play and no reliable power running game. At least Rob Gronkowski and the defense are making more plays to save their days. This week: vs. Falcons, when they don’t want to call it a comeback.
3rd - Experts (ESPN): The Patriots play host to the Falcons and Chargers before their Week 9 bye, then they'll start racking up frequent flyer miles. They play five of their six games after the bye on the road with trips to Denver, Mexico City to face the Raiders, Buffalo, Miami and Pittsburgh.
3rd - Mark Cannizzaro (NY Post): Yes, it was “only’’ the Jets Sunday and yes, they benefited from a questionable overturned TD call, but the Pats showed guile in the comeback win.
3rd - Joe Giglio (NJ.com): It didn't take long for the Patriots to climb back up these rankings. A big test comes this week: Atlanta's offense—coming off an awful loss and looking for Super Bowl vengeance.
3rd - Mike Florio (ProFootballTalk): If the churning continues among the top teams in the AFC, the door will be open for the Patriots to seize the No. 1 seed.
3rd - Ian Glendon (Cover32): Don’t look now but the Patriots are slowly rounding into form. They still have a long way to go but if there is one team you can bank on playing their best football later in the season, it’s the Patriots. Tom Brady tops almost every quarterback category so far at age 40.
3rd - Staff (AP Pro32).
4th - Chris Simms (Bleacher Report): This wasn't the best week for the Patriots, but pulling out the win and staying atop the division was big. ... That defense is only going to continue getting better as the season goes on, and the offense is already pretty damn good.
4th - Joshua Schrock (NESN): The Patriots gave their fans a scare when they fell into an early 14-point hole against the Jets, but Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski rallied New England with help from a controversial call to take first place in the AFC East.
4th - Manish Mehta (NY Daily News): Good news: The Evil Empire climbs into the Top 5 after edging the Jets (thanks to some replay/rules shenanigans). Bad news: This is one terrible defense. Matt Patricia's unit has allowed six 300-plus passers in six games. That's brutal.
5th - Staff (USA Today): Tom Brady now has 212 career wins, including playoffs ... or eight fewer than Chris Sale and David Price combined. Need an arm, Bosox?
5th - Frank Schwab (Yahoo! Sports): I don’t understand coaches who bench a player who fumbles once, unless there’s some history of fumbling. Mike Gillislee had one fumble in 28 career games before Sunday. After he fumbled, he was benched and played just 13 snaps. I’m not really sure the point of that. Letting a guy with one fumble in 28 games know that he shouldn’t fumble?
6th - Elliot Harrison (NFL.com): For weeks, people have been pooh-poohing the Patriots, telling me I should've had them at, like, 20. The only dissenting voice was Heath Evans on the "NFL Power Rankings" show. Of course, Heath played fullback for Bill Belichick, so there's that. While the New England defense still elicits, uh, let's say, a lack of confidence, which teams in the NFL are playing well on both sides of the football?
Aside: I loved Rob Gronkowski's ill-fitting taupe blazer with a light blue undershirt. Crockett and Tubbs were waiting for Gronk to finish his postgame news conference in a 1983 Toyota Supra.
11th - Adam Stites (SB Nation).
AVERAGE RANK: 4.1 (+2.8)