New England’s win over the Jets Sunday afternoon was a pretty sweet ending to an overly-stuffed Thanksgiving weekend. Not much better on a chilly weekend than family and friends, the couch, the fireplace and football. The Steelers and Dolphins both losing was the gravy on top, boosting the Patriots to the No. 2 seed in the AFC, and fourth overall in the power rankings. Not a bad day’s work, closing out November on a high note.
Climbing to the No. 1 spot is out of the Patriots hands right now even if they win out, but a playoff bye is still in the team’s control. To that end the pressure is on for the Patriots to beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh on December 16th, (how crucial does that win over the Chiefs in Week 6 look now?) But the Steelers don’t exactly have an easy schedule left: Chargers, at Raiders, Patriots, at Saints, and Bengals. That’s a tough slog.
The Patriots just need to take care of their week-to-week, game-by-game business and they’ll be in a good spot. Next up the Minnesota Vikings who put on a good show against the Packers, beating them 24-17. Patriots will enjoy playing in front of the home crowd again after two games on the road, and I’m thinking it will show up as a 10-point win.
Around the AFC East:
(8-3) New England Patriots vs. (6-4-1) Minnesota Vikings
(5-6) Miami Dolphins vs. (4-7) Buffalo Bills
(3-8) New York Jets at (5-6) Tennessee Titans
(9-2) Kansas City Chiefs at (2-9) Oakland Raiders
(7-3-1) Pittsburgh Steelers vs. (8-3) Los Angeles Chargers
(5-6) Denver Broncos at (5-6) Cincinnati Bengals
4th - Frank Schwab (Yahoo! Sports): The Patriots got Rob Gronkowski and Sony Michel back on Sunday. Rex Burkhead was activated off IR on Monday. The Patriots aren’t getting the same hype as a lot of other teams, but they’re 8-3, a lock to win the division and finally are getting healthy on offense. The Steelers’ loss at Denver might help them too, in terms of playoff seeding.
4th - Experts (ESPN): Toughest game left: Week 15 at Pittsburgh. It’s the easy choice, even though a tough Vikings team comes to town Sunday, and a trip to Miami (Dec. 9) is always a challenge for the team. Not only is Patriots-Steelers the toughest remaining game on the schedule, but with Pittsburgh eyeing revenge for last season’s defeat, it also could play a big part in whether the Patriots earn a playoff bye.
4th - Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News): Tom Brady didn’t put together an offensive masterpiece against the Jets, but looking at how the backs, receivers and tight ends were involved, the Patriots fielded the kind of balanced, versatile offense we’ve come to expect. They were overdue for a strong road performance overall.
4th - Nate Davis (USA Today): Sunday would seem to be strong indication they’ve got all primary chess pieces back and are ready to peak at just right time. Per usual.
4th - MMQB Staff (SI): The Patriots rebounded from a loss with their trademark ho-hum, pull-ahead-by-two-touchdowns-late win at the Meadowlands. They clinched their 18th straight year at .500 or better, which is just insane.
4th - Joe Giglio (NJ.com): Just when it was easy to count the Patriots out of the race for the No. 1 seed, they crept back in the mix.
4th - Elliot Harrison (NFL.com): The Patriots file another one in the win column with their two-touchdown victory over the Jets, a typical AFC East matchup between these two. New York was game early on, but then Gronk ate a safety on his way to hauling in a vertical strike from Tom Brady right up the seam. If there was a poster-worthy touchdown that could sum up Gronk’s career, that was it. Perhaps the only shocker in the win was running back James White, who was at one point seemingly on his way to a 100-catch season, being “held” to one reception. The defense? Two hundred and sixty-four passing yards allowed, while the Jets were limited to 26 minutes in time of possession. Not bad.
4th - Mike Florio (ProFootballTalk): The AFC top seed seems like a formality for the Patriots, again.
4th - Mark Maske (Washington Post): The Patriots struggled for a while against the Jets but settled down and took care of business, and QB Tom Brady put up some more Brady-like passing numbers. Sunday’s matchup with the Vikings in Foxborough, Mass., is very interesting, and the Patriots now are back in position for a first-round playoff bye.
4th - Pete Prisco (CBS Sports): They came off their bye with a nice road victory against the Jets. They had to be thrilled to get production from Rob Gronkowski again.
4th - Expert Consensus (Bleacher Report): When we last saw the defending AFC champions, the New England Patriots were doing something the New England Patriots don’t do—getting drilled in a November game. However, in Week 12, the Pats got back to doing what they do best—winning football games. And they convinced Gagnon that there’s no reason to panic: “New England’s last three wins have all come by at least 14 points, and that weird pre-bye loss to Tennessee was probably an aberration. At the very least, the Pats deserve the benefit of the doubt. It’s fair to wonder if Tom Brady is slowing down, but he’s got a lot of support from that running game. Tough to bet against this team in the AFC.” Granted, it’s not a major achievement to beat the Jets, who were themselves coming off a blowout loss to the Buffalo Bills. But in handling the Jets, the Patriots not only got back on track but got big contributions from a pair of players who have been battling injuries. Rookie tailback Sony Michel piled up 133 yards and a score on 21 carries, and tight end Rob Gronkowski added three catches for 56 yards and a score of his own. As is usually the case this time of year, the AFC East is all but a done deal. But the Pats’ playoff seed is anything but—especially with the Minnesota Vikings and Pittsburgh Steelers on the slate over the next few weeks.
4th - Staff (AP Pro32).
5th - Rebecca Toback (SB Nation): Speaking of the Patriots, they beat the Jets to the surprise of no one, but it’s clear this New England team isn’t as dominant as many recent New England teams. Still, the AFC East will easily be won by the Patriots once again and they’re in position to have the No. 2 seed in the AFC.
5th - Bryan Fischer (Athlon Sports): Not the best of efforts early but the Patriots eventually put away the Jets for a comfortable second half win on the road. It will be interesting to see what kind of effect Rex Burkhead will have on the offense now that he’s finally ready to return to the lineup to complement Sony Michel.
7th - Russell Baxter (FanSided): Recap: The last time we saw Bill Belichick’s team it was being manhandled in Nashville by the Titans. Now the Pats were back in action after an off week and looked to take out their frustrations on the New York Jets (also off in Week 11) at MetLife Stadium. New England spotted the home team a 7-0 lead before Tom Brady found tight end Rob Gronkowski for a 34-yard score. Tied 10-all at halftime, the Patriots took over after intermission and closed the deal by outscoring the Jets, 17-3, the remainder of the game. Rookie running back Sony Michel carried 21 times for 133 yards and one TD and Tom Brady threw for 283 yards and two scores without being sacked.
Next Week: The Patriots host the Minnesota Vikings for the first time since 2010, when Belichick’s club came away with a 28-18 victory. All told, these interconference foes clash for the first time since ’14. New England has owned this infrequent series as of late, prevailing in four consecutive meetings dating back to ’02.
Week 13 Average Rank: 4.3 (+0.6)