Welcome to the Bye Week!
You may think it’s an off week for Patriots fans, but uh-uh. Heading into Week 9 the AFC is a close race for the top spot between the Pats, Steelers (Bye), Chiefs and Bills. Only two games behind the top tier are Miami, Baltimore, Tennessee and Jacksonville, and we all know how quickly fortunes can change.
What I’m trying to say is, what’s best for the football team (‘T-E-A-M-team’) this week may look like rooting for the Jets, but really it’s just rooting for the 5-2 Bills to lose on Thursday night. It gives New England’s lead just a little cushion in the division and who doesn’t like a little cushion? What the heck, while we’re at it, go Bengals, Raiders and (gag) Cowboys too. Most of all though...
Around the AFC East:
New England (6-2) BYE
Buffalo (5-2) at NY Jets (3-5)
Miami (4-3) vs. Oakland (3-5)
Kansas City (6-2) at Dallas (4-3)
Baltimore (4-4) at Tennessee (4-3)
Jacksonville (4-3) vs. Cincinnati (3-4)
Denver (3-4) at Philadelphia (7-1)
Houston (3-4) vs. Indianapolis (2-6)
1st - Mark Maske (Washington Post): Trading backup QB Jimmy Garoppolo means the Patriots can no longer lose Tom Brady and still have any Super Bowl hopes. Is there another deal to come before Tuesday’s trade deadline? The victories are coming with the expected regularity now, with the Patriots on a four-game winning streak. But the injuries, most recently to LB Dont’a Hightower and WR Chris Hogan, have created needs for help in the pass rush and at receiver. A bit more depth at tight end wouldn’t hurt, either.
2nd - Kevin Dillon (MassLive): The Patriots enter their bye week at 6-2, have won four in a row and have seen improvement in their defense in recent weeks. There’s a lot to like about their current position, as they have found different ways to move the ball even without Julian Edelman. Even with the Bills performing surprisingly well, the Patriots are in first place in the division.
2nd - Mike Florio (ProFootballTalk): “The Patriots might choose Jimmy Garoppolo over Tom Brady”.
2nd - Chris Simms (Bleacher Report): The Patriots defense is getting better and better every week. Other than Melvin Gordon's big run, it played well. With Brady and Co. on the other side, New England is beginning to look dangerous. ...
The Patriots may have started the season shaky, but they're again one of the top teams in the NFL. Expect them to be there at the end of the year too.
2nd - Mark Cannizzaro (NY Post): Winners of their last four games, they hit their bye in perfect shape for second-half run to capture yet another AFC East title. After allowing 128 points in its first four games, the Patriots have allowed 51 over the past four.
2nd - Experts (ESPN): The Patriots are averaging only 21.8 points per game over their past four. All were wins, but if there's any cause for concern in New England right now, it's the red zone offense. The Patriots have turned just 50 percent of red zone drives into touchdowns (63 percent last season).
2nd - Adam Stites (SB Nation).
2nd - Pete Prisco (CBS Sports): The defense is getting better, even without some key players. That's a good sign moving forward. The trade of Jimmy Garoppplo was the smart thing to do.
3rd - Frank Schwab (Yahoo! Sports): I hate the Jacoby Brissett trade even more now that the Patriots have dealt Jimmy Garoppolo. But trading Garoppolo was the only logical way that situation could have played out. Garoppolo was a free agent next March and the Patriots couldn’t retain him unless they spent a ton to give him the franchise tag. It’s also obvious the Patriots expect many more good years out of 40-year-old Tom Brady.
3rd - Manish Mehta (NY Daily News): Remember when we mocked Bill Belichick's defense? I don't either. The Hoodie has course corrected on that side of the ball to help his squad win four in a row entering their bye.
3rd - Joshua Schrock (NESN): The Patriots’ red-zone struggles could become a concern as the season wears on, but New England heads into its Week 9 bye on a four-game winning streak after squeaking past the Los Angeles Chargers.
3rd - Staff (AP Pro32).
4th - Staff (USA Today): NFL passing leader Tom Brady is playing point guard as well as ever, completing at least 30 passes to five different teammates so far.
4th - Joe Giglio (NJ.com): From defensive issues to on pace for a 12-win season. Business as usual in Foxboro.
4th - Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News): Tom Brady isn't a creepy old prospector. He's still golden-armed with Gronk Monster still mashing away. [What???] This week: Bye, a good chance for an offensive tune-up.
5th - Elliot Harrison (NFL.com): All the freaking out over the Patriots' defense early in the season now feels like the noise you hear from those whiners at the Genius Bar in the Apple Store. Matt Patricia, who was criticized and second-guessed nonstop over the first month of the season, deserves great praise once again. With Tom Brady's offense moving the ball -- but slowing down in Chargers territory -- and Stephen Gostkowski struggling, it was Patricia's side of the ball that won out on Sunday. The Pats have given up fewer than 13 points per game over their last four. Think about that.
AVERAGE RANK: 2.8 (-0.4)