New England wins its fourth game in a row, first on the road, and somehow dropped a notch or two in the eyes of some of the experts. For whatever the reason - the win came against the wrong team, score was too close, defense allowed too many points, game was too sloppy, etc... sometimes the team can’t seem to win even after a win. Who knew there were so many qualifiers (or disqualifiers) involved in the outcome? To keep it simple, I now follow the Bill Belichick school of “score more points than the other team” in determining each winner, but that’s just me. One of the many (many) reasons why I’ll never be considered an expert.
Interestingly, the Patriots are in the same place as the 2017 standings, 5-2 and roughly ranked between 2nd and 3rd place in the league - even if the media vibe this year feels worse. As Belichick told the team in Sunday’s post-game locker room, “We’ve got a big division game this week... need everyone rested, ready to go...” Already making it clear the organization will not be taking the Buffalo Bills lightly. No matter anyone else trying to call this a blowout or a cakewalk, and despite the Pats opening as 13-point favorites, division games are different animals, especially on the road. So kudos to the Patriots for righting the ship with 4-straight wins and here’s to putting a bit more distance between them the rest of the AFC East on Monday night. Pats win by 17.
Around the AFC East:
2nd - Nate Davis (USA Today): They’ve scored at least 38 points four weeks in a row. That’s bound to get harder if Sony Michel or Gronk are down for significant periods.
2nd - Elliot Harrison (NFL.com): The Patriots keep winning, with everyone contributing. On Sunday, Josh Gordon made his presence felt -- trucking Bears defenders en route to a near catch-and-run touchdown -- even if he did fail to bat down that Hail Mary ball at the end. Which brings me to Duron Harmon, who deserves kudos for his heads-up approach to that bang-bang play. It was difficult to decipher who made the catch, but Harmon saw that Chicago receiver Kevin White was lumbering forward with the football, a foot away from forcing overtime. That’s when Harmon was Duronny-on-the-spot with a stiff tackle. James White must need a stiff drink, considering how many little things he does -- and how many hits he absorbs while doing them.
2nd - Expert Consensus (Bleacher Report): From a quick look at the stat sheet, one would think the New England Patriots lost to the Chicago Bears Sunday.
The Patriots were outgained in the game, 453 to 381. The Patriots had fewer first downs, lost the turnover and time-of-possession battles, and converted a lower percentage of third downs. Mitchell Trubisky even had more passing yards than Tom Brady.
And yet, the Pats managed to pull out a seven-point victory, thanks in large part to not one but two special teams touchdowns—one on a kick return and the other on a blocked punt.
It was an effort that left Davenport equal parts nonplussed and impressed.
“The Patriots didn’t have Rob Gronkowski and got outplayed in many aspects, and still, somehow, it was New England who wound up winning this game,” Davenport said. “This is what makes the Pats so aggravatingly dangerous. Even when they aren’t playing their best, the Patriots are convinced they will somehow win the game. And then they do.”
2nd - Joshua Schrock (NESN): There was no letdown for Tom Brady and Co. after their shootout win over the Kansas City Chiefs. The Patriots scored two specials teams touchdowns and survived a Mitchell Trubisky Hail Mary to beat the Chicago Bears 38-31. New England lost running back Sony Michel to injury, though, making its backfield even thinner than it already was.
2nd - Rebecca Toback (SB Nation): The Dolphins are making the AFC East competitive this year as it’s not just the Patriots who have a winning record in the division. With that said, it’s hard to imagine anyone other than New England winning the AFC East as Tom Brady and Bill Belichick shook off a rough start and have won four straight. The Jets are better than they were last year now that they have a franchise quarterback under center in Sam Darnold, but they’re not real contenders this year. As for the Bills, they’re pretty much a lost cause. At least Buffalonians can look forward to rookie quarterback Josh Allen’s eventual return from elbow injury. Unfortunately, that return won’t come in time for Monday Night Football against the Patriots.
2nd - Staff (AP Pro32).
3rd - Frank Schwab (Yahoo! Sports): We shouldn’t just gloss over the Patriots’ win. To win on the road against a good Bears team without Rob Gronkowski, after Sony Michel got hurt, was a quality victory. The Patriots are clearly back to being the Patriots, and the news that Michel’s knee injury isn’t serious is great for them.
3rd - Mark Maske (Washington Post): The victory in Chicago came at a cost, with the knee injury suffered by rookie RB Sony Michel. The injury is not considered serious. But for now, it leaves James White and Kenjon Barner as the only healthy running backs on the roster, so the Patriots will have to address that need.
3rd - Pete Prisco (CBS Sports): They needed two special-teams touchdowns to beat the Bears, but that’s what they do. Here come the Patriots.
3rd - Experts (ESPN): Need more from: DE Adrian Clayborn. He was held without a sack after the Patriots signed him in the offseason until finally getting on the board Sunday with one against the Bears. New England has recorded a sack on just 3 percent of opponents’ pass attempts, the worst rate in the NFL. -- Bryan Larson
3rd - Joe Giglio (NJ.com): Beating the Bears is a positive, obviously. But these Patriots are far from the seemingly invincible teams we’re used to seeing Bill Belichick run out there. Still, they keep finding a way to get the job done.
4th - MMQB Staff (SI): Four straight wins, and suddenly the Patriots are in the driver’s seat in the AFC East with an inside track to a first round bye, like nothing ever happened at all. But the Pats did drop two spots after their close call against Chicago.
4th - Russell S. Baxter (Fansided): Playoff hopes: After stumbling to find itself early in the season, the Patriots have now won four straight games and at 5-2, are all alone atop the division they have won each of the previous nine years. The team has now found a way to score at least 38 points in each of those last four outings and look awfully dangerous once again.
5th - Bryan Fischer (Athlon Sports): The Pats’ defense continues to limit the ceiling for this team but when they’re getting extra scores from special teams, it is going to be incredibly hard to beat them.
Week 8 Average Rank: 2.9 (-0.4)
SB NATION SAMPLING:
2nd - Brandon Lee Gowton (BleedingGreenNation): The Pats are riding a four-game winning streak after a quality win in Chicago.