Last week at this time while the glow from the Green Bay win was still warm and comforting, it may have been suggested here that it was okay for fans to relax, take a breath, and enjoy life near the top of the rankings. Hope you enjoyed it while it lasted. Apparently even though the entire AFC East is heading into the bye week, the experts are telling us it’s time to worry.
It’s a bit amusing to have to switch gears so quickly. A week of lauding the genius of the coaching staff and the Patriots performance against the great Aaron Rodgers, has turned into a torrent of angst, warnings, blame-laying TV segments on the exact degree of ugliness of the loss, what it all means and who called it first. Picture the dire image of Dr. Bones McCoy cradling Tom Brady’s noodle arm while gravely pronouncing, “It’s dead, Jim.”
I suggest to tune it all out and cheer up! Don’t fall for all the negativity. The media frenzy will peter out (a bit anyway), the players will have a week off from taking hits and time to heal up, watch film, and recover. Hope you all enjoy this Sunday, whether you’re watching football without the butterflies, or do something else away from the game. My prediction: A couple (2-3) of weeks from now we’ll all look back at this and laugh.
Around the AFC East:
All on a bye week.
5th - Elliot Harrison (NFL.com): As bad a midseason loss as we’ve see from the Patriots in a long time. This is typically the time of the season when New England imposes its will on foes. On Sunday, the offense couldn’t pull out of neutral, managing just 284 total yards (way below the Pats’ standard). The running game was especially putrid (40 yards on 19 carries), while the third-down conversion rate was a not-sterling 20 percent. Interesting nugget from NFL Research: Tom Brady went 1-for-6 against the blitz Sunday, taking three sacks. Over the last five games vs. the blitz, the Hall of Famer-to-be has completed 44.8 percent of his passes with a 56.4 passer rating. Sure, injuries up front have something to do with that. Look for New England to get healthier -- and better prepare to handle all these blitz packages -- during the bye week. Fantasy owners must have felt like this was the Patriots’ bye week.
5th - Pete Prisco (CBS Sports): What is wrong with Tom Brady? He just doesn’t look right.
5th - Mike Florio (ProFootballTalk): The bye week will force the Pats to keep the bad taste in their mouths a lot longer than usual.
5th - MMQB Staff (SI).
5th - Expert Consensus (Bleacher Report): There is absolutely no question what the biggest surprise of Week 10 was: a Patriots team that had won six straight getting its head kicked in in Nashville by the Jekyll-and-Hyde Titans. The Patriots didn’t just get beaten—they got absolutely flattened. New England was outgained by over 100 yards. Tennessee had more first downs. More time of possession. New England was held to a 20 percent conversion rate on third down, and Tom Brady managed just 21-of-41 passing without a touchdown. The last time the Patriots lost by more than 14 points in November or later was 2010. Now, we’re not going to take the bait and start throwing dirt on the Patriots. This is a team that time and time again has righted the ship following a setback. But you have to wonder if the injuries to players like Rob Gronkowski aren’t having an effect and if a porous defense isn’t becoming a big problem.
6th - Frank Schwab (Yahoo! Sports): In every key stat, Tom Brady’s numbers are down from last season: yards, completion percentage, interceptions, touchdowns, yards per attempt, passer rating. He’s still a quality quarterback, obviously, but we have to ask if this is Brady showing some age or his lack of weapons (most notably Rob Gronkowski, who was having a very quiet season before missing a couple games due to injury).
6th - Nate Davis (USA Today): Good news — remainder of regular-season schedule offers no showdowns with Eric Mangini, Romeo Crennel or even pushover Bill O’Brien.
6th - Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News): The Patriots could not get anything going on the road against the Titans, as the hosts used their New England knowledge against them in every way. They need the bye to get healthy and regroup with Tom Brady in a rare funk.
6th - Experts (ESPN): Defining stat: 8 and 29/31. The eight represents the number of players to record at least one interception -- a high total that reflects across-the-board contributions and a knack for creating turnovers at times, which has helped offset some other struggles. As for the 29 and 31, those are the team’s rankings in kickoff coverage and punt-return coverage, respectively, which is uncharacteristically low and ties in to the defense.
6th - Mark Maske (Washington Post): It’s not that the Patriots won’t rebound from the loss Sunday in Nashville. They will. But they’re two games behind the Chiefs in the race for the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs. That matters quite a bit. For now, the Patriots must hope that their bye week gives TE Rob Gronkowski enough time to heal and return to the lineup.
6th - Joe Giglio (NJ.com): Quietly, Tom Brady only ranks 11th in total QBR this season. It’s always a fool’s errand to talk about Brady’s decline, but we may be watching it now.
6th - Rebecca Toback (SB Nation): As for the Eagles’ Super Bowl opponent from last season, the Patriots also took a small fall in this week’s power rankings. But, there’s no need for New England fans to freak out. The Patriots will surely bounce back.
6th - Staff (AP Pro32).
7th - Bryan Fischer (Athlon Sports): Ugly, ugly effort on the road against a motivated Titans team filled with former Patriots. Now there are some doubts about the road in the AFC going through Foxborough.
7th - Russell S. Baxter (Fansided): The reigning conference champions and defending AFC East titlists have a week off before returning to action in Week 12, when they will face the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium. The Patriots have taken 12 of the last 14 meetings between the clubs dating back to 2011.
As odd as it may sound, the Buffalo Bills were the only team in the division to win on Sunday. And that’s good news for the Pats, who maintain a two-game lead in the AFC East heading into the team’s off week. While the club still looks like a Super Bowl contenders, its three lopsided losses this season do raise concerns.
Week 11 Average Rank: 5.8 (-3.0)