With the bye week behind us, I’m hoping everyone is now well-rested, healthy, and ready to go. I know I am. Definitely not a fan of a weekend without the Patriots in action, and this week we’ll have to wait until 8:30 p.m. Sunday night to finally watch them take on the Broncos in Denver.
The experts have New England ranked between 2nd and 3rd, and are showing a bit of wariness because of their 3-7, Brady-Belichick record at Mile High (3-4, regular season, 0-3 playoffs). The Broncos always play the Patriots tough but frankly this matchup isn’t ratcheting up the usual nerves. Bill Belichick had a telling quote yesterday when he said, “A lot of times it’s not even who you play, it’s when you play them.” This is a good time to play the Broncos. As banged up as the Patriots are, the Broncos’ Osweiller offense hasn’t been able to conjure up much of an attack.
Result? Patriots improve their record in Denver and win by 14.
Around the AFC East:
New England (6-2) at Denver (3-5)
Buffalo (5-3) vs. New Orleans (6-2)
Miami (4-4) at Carolina (6-3)
NY Jets (4-5) at Tampa Bay (2-6)
Pittsburgh (6-2) at Indianapolis (3-6)
Tennessee (5-3) vs. Cincinnati (3-5)
Jacksonville (5-3) vs. LA Chargers (3-5)
Houston (3-5) at LA Rams (6-2)
Cleveland (0-8) at Detroit (4-4)
2nd - Joshua Schrock (NESN): New England comes off its bye to face a Broncos team that just gave up 51 points to the Eagles and plans to start Brock Osweiler at QB. Tom Brady and Co. have struggled in Denver, but that trend should come to a screeching halt this week.
2nd - Kevin Dillon (MassLive): The Patriots were on bye this week, so they stick around at No. 2 in this week’s power rankings.
2nd - Frank Schwab (Yahoo! Sports): The Patriots benefit in a big way by the Chiefs losing three times in four games. Due to that season-opening game, the Chiefs hold the tiebreaker over the Patriots. Now the Patriots lead Kansas City in the AFC standings and the Patriots have five very winnable games (at Broncos, vs. Raiders, vs. Dolphins, at Bills, at Dolphins) before a big showdown at the Steelers on Dec. 17. And, in case you were wondering, the Patriots finish with home games against the Bills and Jets. A 14-2 season isn’t out of the question. It seems like a foregone conclusion they’ll be No. 1 on this list before December and might not give that spot up.
2nd - Mike Florio (ProFootballTalk): Who better than an oft-injured quarterback to back up a never-injured starter?
2nd - Chris Simms (Bleacher Report): This is the time of year we start to see the New England Patriots pull away. They have a half season's worth of film to analyze now, and no one coaches or makes adjustments better than the Patriots. Expect them to come out of the bye with new wrinkles on both sides of the ball. The fact New England survived early struggles to enter the bye with a 6-2 record is trouble for the rest of the league. The defense has continued to improve, the passing game is elite, and the time to take advantage of New England's struggles and miscommunication has passed. The Patriots are the best team in the AFC, and I don't expect that to change between now and the end of the season.
2nd - Mark Cannizzaro (NY Post): What might Tom Brady, fresh off a bye week in the Bahamas, do to the Denver defense that allowed 51 points in Sunday’s loss to the Eagles? We’ll see Sunday.
2nd - Staff (SI).
2nd - Mark Maske (Washington Post): The Patriots return from their bye to play a Sunday night game in Denver that once looked like it would be a marquee matchup. Instead, it’s a chance for the Patriots to take advantage of a Broncos team that is struggling mightily and couldn’t come close to keeping pace with the Eagles on Sunday.
2nd - Experts (ESPN): [Preseason ranking: 1.] If there's any concern around the Patriots this season, it's the fact that five of their past six games have been decided by eight or fewer points. They aren't blowing teams out, but wins are wins, and the defending champions still belong toward the top.
2nd - Pete Prisco (CBS Sports): They come off the bye with a game at Denver, which is always a challenge for the Patriots. And the Broncos are desperate.
2nd - Adam Stites (SB Nation).
3rd - Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News): The defense seemed to fix a few things in the home wins over the Falcons and Chargers. Expect the offense to come up with a few tweaks in order to streamline the players to whom Tom Brady is throwing and handing off. This week: at Broncos, which has been a tricky place for Brady.
3rd - Manish Mehta (NY Daily News): Did Bill Belichick make a strategic blunder by trading away Jimmy Garoppolo during the bye week? If Tom Brady misses any amount of time, will veteran Brian Hoyer be good enough? An intriguing Sunday night showdown in Foxborough against the Broncos awaits.
3rd - Staff (USA Today): Don't accuse schedule makers of favoring Pats. Coming out of their bye, they play five of next six on road, including a trip to Mexico City.
3rd - Staff (AP Pro32).
4th - Elliot Harrison (NFL.com): Was at a hotel bar the other night, trying to right -- sorry, write; had a couple margs -- New England's blurb. Anyway, was trying to think what to write for the Patriots' off week. Then this cheesy-synthesizer Steve Winwood song (that I secretly like) came on: "Valerie," which includes this indelible lyric: "I'm the same boy I used to be." Made me think of Tom Brady. I'm not sure any of us who cover the sport, or the fans at large, realize how much better the NFL is with Brady in it. That's no glorified B.S., either. Brady makes the NFL better, whether you root for or against the Patriots -- the point is, you do one or the other. Secondly, he's played for the same franchise his entire career. You can't say that about almost any "franchise" player anymore. And forget the fact that Brady is the greatest quarterback of all time. Does the guy act like it? Hell no. Brady wants to win as badly as that 23-year-old late-round pick in 2000 who just wanted a chance to get in the game, garbage time or not. He's never done a lot of commercials ( Tommy, you're my favorite accountant ... Real comfortable jeans ...), save for a creepyish one in 2016. He's just a dude playing a dude disguised as another dude who refuses to lose. OK, I'm done. But I could write 2,000 words here.
4th - Joe Giglio (NJ.com): The schedule makers provided a gift in Week 10: A trip to take on Brock Osweiler and the awful Broncos offense.
AVERAGE RANK: 2.5 (+0.3)