It was not flashy. It was not dominant. It was not a perfect 60-minute performance. But, to paraphrase Gertrude Stein: a win is a win is a win. The New England Patriots were able to get their sixth of the season on Monday night against the Buffalo Bills and now sit at 6-2 and comfortably ahead in the AFC East. They are also making themselves comfortable near the top of league-wide power rankings.
Around the AFC East:
(6-2) New England Patriots vs. (3-3-1) Green Bay Packers
(4-4) Miami Dolphins vs. (3-5) New York Jets
(2-6) Buffalo Bills vs. (4-3) Chicago Bears
(7-1) Kansas City Chiefs at (2-5-1) Cleveland Browns
(5-3) Houston Texans at (3-5) Denver Broncos
(4-2-1) Pittsburgh Steelers at (4-4) Baltimore Ravens
(5-2) Los Angeles Chargers at (4-3) Seattle Seahawks
(3-4) Tennessee Titans at (3-4) Dallas Cowboys
(1-6) Oakland Raiders at (1-7) San Francisco 49ers
Bye Weeks: (5-3) Cincinnati Bengals, (3-4) Tennessee Titans, (3-5) Indianapolis Colts, (3-5) Jacksonville Jaguars
2nd - Elliot Harrison (NFL.com): No movement for the Patriots, although Saints fans think their team should have leapfrogged New England. Funny how 25-6 division wins -- on the road, no less -- are not enough anymore. The Patriots’ defense gave up 46 yards on the ground and forced two turnovers to take the pressure off Tom Brady, a la the Dolphins game a month ago. Offensively, James White caught his usual 150 passes (10 for 79), while his touchdown plunge capped off the key drive of the game, pushing a close six-point affair to 18-6 in the fourth quarter.
Side note: Cordarrelle Patterson ... Cordarrelle Patterson ... got 10 carries. He has more rushing attempts than receptions this season.
2nd - Expert Consensus (Bleacher Report): For much of Monday night’s game in Buffalo, the New England Patriots looked little like the machine that entered Week 8 riding a four-game winning streak with at least 38 points in all four games.
The offense just wasn’t the same without rookie tailback Sony Michel, settling repeatedly for field goals. The defense was OK. The Bills have a tendency to make every defense look at least OK. But with linebacker Dont’a Hightower also sidelined, it was off a beat as well.
However, this was a game featuring one of the NFL’s best teams against one of the worst. That became reality in the fourth quarter, when a James White touchdown run and a Devin McCourty pick-six blew things open.
It’s likely not an effort that Bill Belichick will be pleased with ahead of another prime-time matchup this Sunday against the Green Bay Packers.
But the Patriots, as they usually do, took care of business—and in doing so locked in a stranglehold on the AFC East. What a surprise.
2nd - Rebecca Toback (SB Nation): The NFL’s top contenders seem pretty clear at the halfway point of the season. The Rams, Patriots, Chiefs, and Saints have imposed their will on their opposition and are paving their paths toward the playoffs. The Patriots are ... the Patriots. An annual contender and always-dangerous team.
2nd - Staff (AP Pro32).
3rd - Nate Davis (USA Today): Trick — RB position decimated? All good. They’ll give bulk of carries to Cordarrelle Patterson and Julian Edelman while TB12 paces them in ypc (8.0) amid #TB1K pursuit.
3rd - Mark Maske (Washington Post): The Patriots struggled for three quarters Monday night in Buffalo but broke things open in the fourth quarter, aided by a TD by their defense. They have a short week to prepare for Sunday’s game at home against the Packers, only the second career meeting between Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers as starters (Rodgers also faced the Patriots and Brady once in relief of an injured Brett Favre).
3rd - Mike Florio (ProFootballTalk): It was sluggish, it was sloppy, it was uninspiring. And they still beat the Bills by 19 points.
3rd - Pete Prisco (CBS Sports): It wasn’t pretty against the Bills, but they found a way. They have to be better against Green Bay.
3rd - Russell Baxter (Fansided): Next Week: The Pats face their third NFC North opponent this season as they return to NBC’s Sunday Night Football and host the Green Bay Packers. Of course, it’s the much-anticipated clash between star quarterbacks Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. New England host this interconference series for the first time since 2010.
4th - Frank Schwab (Yahoo! Sports): The Patriots got what ended up being an easy win against an overmatched Bills team. But can we at least talk about the fact that Rob Gronkowski really doesn’t look right, and hasn’t most of this season?
4th - MMQB Staff (SI): It took the Pats a little longer than you’d expect to pull away from the Bills. Now they have to get ready for the Packers on a short week.
4th - Bryan Fischer (Athlon Sports): Didn’t learn a ton from that outing in Buffalo other than the fact that finishing drives was a bit of an issue on the road. The Josh Gordon situation that popped up before the game is worth monitoring however.
4th - Joe Giglio (NJ.com): Another year, another playoff bye on the way for New England.
4th - Experts (ESPN): The Patriots entered their Monday night game against Buffalo having not played a game without a turnover on offense. For a team that traditionally is among the league leaders in turnover differential, it is an area of concern that has been noted weekly by coach Bill Belichick.
4th - Joshua Schrock (NESN): The Patriots were predictably vanilla and uncharacteristically sloppy in their 25-6 win over the Bills. Will New England make a deal for a marquee wide receiver by Tuesday’s trade deadline?.
Week 8 Average Rank: 3.1 (-0.2)*
*[Editor note from Marima: Called it last week, the Pats were going to win their way down in the rankings.]
SB NATION SAMPLING:
2nd - Brandon Lee Gowton (BleedingGreenNation): The Pats have won five in a row. They’re back in comfortable control over the AFC East.
2nd - David Fucillo (NinersNation).