Gimme five! The experts stepped back a foot away from last week’s ledge and moved the Patriots up a notch to the 5th spot, while they were resting on their bye. Nice.
If you listen to any Patriots player interviewed this week you’ll hear the familiar “Football begins after Thanksgiving” sound bite. This year it means this Sunday, at MetLife Stadium, vs. the New York Jets. If you listen to any local sports radio sound bite, you’ll also hear that the Patriots haven’t been playing well on the road. Can’t argue with that, but I don’t think it will apply this week. Tom Brady is expecting the team to come out of the bye week swinging. Rested, self-scouted, and ready to pour it on. Same here. Patriots win by 17.
Around the AFC East:
(7-3) New England Patriots at (3-7) New York Jets
(5-5) Miami Dolphins at (5-5) Indianapolis Colts
(3-7) Buffalo Bills vs. (3-7) Jacksonville Jaguars
(7-2-1) Pittsburgh Steelers at (4-6) Denver Broncos
(7-3) Houston Texans vs. (5-5) Tennessee Titans
(7-3) Los Angeles Chargers vs. (2-8) Arizona Cardinals
(5-5) Baltimore Ravens vs. (2-8) Oakland Raiders
(5-5) Cincinnati Bengals vs. (3-6-1) Cleveland Browns
Bye Weeks: (9-2) Kansas City Chiefs, (10-1) Los Angeles Rams
4th - Mike Florio (ProFootballTalk): There’s a nagging sense that the Pats will inevitably be the No. 1 seed, again.
4th - Joe Giglio (NJ.com): Jumping two spots and resting up during the bye week. Not bad.
4th - Pete Prisco (CBS Sports): They come off their bye with four games in the final six against AFC East teams. That makes life easy down the stretch to get ready for the playoffs.
4th - Staff (AP Pro32).
5th - Elliot Harrison (NFL.com): The Patriots headed into their Week 11 bye licking their wounds after a pack of wild ex-teammates thrashed them down in Nashville. The extra week of preparation for this weekend’s game against the Jets also meant additional time to incorporate what went wrong against Tennessee into the film study. Sometimes, coaches might not linger too long on a disastrous outing, for fear of crushing a young team’s confidence. In this particular case, the Pats -- and particularly Tom Brady -- must determine how to protect against and outsmart the blitz packages Titans coordinator Dean Pees threw at them. Otherwise, everybody else is gonna do it, including in mid-January.
5th - Nate Davis (USA Today): Though it’s hard to envision a loss Sunday, they’re hardly automatic in New York, winning five of their last nine against Jets on road.
5th - Experts (ESPN): Thankful for: Bill Belichick and Tom Brady for a 19th straight season. Around this time in 2017, some questioned how much longer the duo would be together because of tension, with speculation swirling that perhaps 2018 wasn’t even a guarantee. But that would be like breaking up turkey and stuffing -- it just wouldn’t seem right.
5th - Frank Schwab (Yahoo! Sports): There aren’t many more important injury-related questions in the NFL than how Rob Gronkowski comes out of the bye week. He’ll have three full weeks off, after missing two with his injuries, and if he doesn’t look right this week then it probably isn’t happening this season. And that’s a big issue for the Patriots.
5th - Mark Maske (Washington Post): The Patriots return from their bye for a less-than-demanding road game against the Jets. The biggest issue will be the health and availability of TE Rob Gronkowski. The Patriots probably need him at something resembling his best the rest of the way to get back to another Super Bowl.
5th - MMQB Staff (SI): The Patriots have now slipped below the Steelers in the standings, and have the same record as the Texans. Which remarkable streak is more in jeopardy: eight straight years with at least 12 wins or eight straight years with a first round bye?.
5th - Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News): The Patriots are in a bit of a funk with Tom Brady in a mini-slump, but they usually figure these things out during a bye. They are never out of Super Bowl contention until someone can eliminate them for real in the playoffs.
5th - Experts Consensus (Bleacher Report): If you know what happened to the New England Patriots in Week 10, let us know.
Actually, we know what happened: The Pats got waxed in Nashville by the Tennessee Titans. What we don’t know is why.
It’s not like the Titans have played great football this year; they just got boat-raced by the Colts. New England had been, though. After a 1-2 start, the Patriots peeled off six straight wins before suffering their worst November loss in years.
It’s hardly panic time. This is, after all, the Patriots—no team in the NFL is better at shaking off a bad loss and getting back on track. But there were causes for concern in the loss to the Titans, chief among them that the Pats were badly outplayed in the trenches on both sides of the ball.
By virtue of Pittsburgh’s wild Week 11 win over the reeling Jaguars, the Patriots now find themselves the No. 3 seed in the AFC. As things stand today, they would do something the Pats rarely do: play on Wild Card Weekend.
Of course, there’s still the matter of a Week 15 date in Pittsburgh with those Steelers.
The key now is to win the games ahead of that showdown.
5th - Bryan Fischer (Athlon Sports): Nice quiet bye week in New England where the only bit of news to come out might be Tom Brady’s supreme confidence in Michigan beating Ohio State on Saturday. We’ll see about that later on, but we might not learn much about this stretch run for the Pats until those games against Minnesota and Pittsburgh.
5th - Rebecca Toback (SB Nation): The Bears only moved up one spot this week — just like the Steelers, Patriots, and Texans — but they deserve recognition for how substantially they’ve turned things around.
7th - Russell S. Baxter (Fansided): Recap: The NFL’s reigning dynasty remains one of the league’s best team and currently owns a two-game lead in the AFC East. But at times, the New England Patriots have been a little bit mystifying. The club has not performed very well on the road, with all three of its losses the season occurring away from the friendly confines of Foxborough and each by double digits. While quarterback Tom Brady remains one of the masters of his craft and the offense has been better as of late, injuries to rookie running back Sony Michel and tight end Rob Gronkowski haven’t helped. And Bill Belichick’s defense has been subpar for the second consecutive year.
Next Week: Dating back to realignment in 2002, no team in the NFL owns a better divisional record then the Patriots. The team has already easily disposed of the Dolphins (38-7) and Bills (25-6) this year and now head to MetLife Stadium to take on the Jets. New England has prevailed in 12 of the last 14 meetings dating back to 2011.
Week 12 Average Rank: 4.9 (+0.9)