Welcome to your safe space. How’s it feel having the Patriots at 7-2, with a two-game lead in the sinking AFC East, and ranking not only number two in the Conference, but between two and three over all? New England has settled into a winning groove, knocking off the Chiefs and the Packers during their six-game win streak — but for some that 2-2 start is hard to shake off.
For those who still have nightmares from Detroit or who had checked off the Chiefs and Packers as automatic losses when the schedule came out back in April, its okay to breathe just a tad easier now. I’m not buying into the analysts who “yawn” or “ho-hum” at how the Pats fought back up standings, but I am buying that Belichick won’t take his foot off the gas until the end, so it’s no jinx if fans relax and enjoy where the team is right now. Really... it’s not a bad place to be and the season is flying by already.
What’s ahead? The second-half schedule is plenty meaningful: Four division games, six out of seven conference games, three home games (Minnesota, Buffalo, NY Jets) and four away (Tennessee, NY Jets, Miami and Pittsburgh), with a Week 11 Bye.
Sunday at 1:00 the Pats face the ‘Patriots-South’ in Tennessee with many familiar faces, including oldies Mike Vrabel and Dean Pees plus recent former players, Dion Lewis, Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan and Josh Kline. No doubt they’ll be pretty hyped for this game but the Patriots will be steady and ready. Pats win by 17.
Around the AFC East:
(7-2) New England Patriots at (4-4) Tennessee Titans
(5-4) Miami Dolphins at (3-4-1) Green Bay Packers
(3-6) New York Jets vs. (2-7) Buffalo Bills
(8-1) Kansas City Chiefs vs. (2-6) Arizona Cardinals
(5-2) Pittsburgh Steelers vs. (6-2) Carolina Panthers
(6-2) Los Angeles Chargers at (1-7) Oakland Raiders
(5-3) Cincinnati Bengals vs. (7-1) New Orleans Saints
(3-5) Jacksonville Jaguars at (3-5) Indianapolis Colts
(2-6) Cleveland Browns vs. (4-4) Atlanta Falcons
Bye Weeks: (3-6) Denver Broncos, (4-5) Baltimore Ravens, (6-3) Houston Texans
2nd - Pete Prisco (CBS Sports): Ho-hum, it’s November and the Patriots are getting better. Haven’t we seen this script before?.
2nd - Elliot Harrison (NFL.com): Before you pick at this ranking, realize that the Patriots won -- by multiple scores, no less -- without Rob Gronkowski, Sony Michel and Shaq Mason. Tom Brady picked at the Pack’s defense most of the night, being quite familiar with the scheme’s czar, Mike Pettine. Then Brady hit the Joshpot with that odd-looking intermediate throw to Mr. Gordon -- a ball that Julian Edelman initially elevated for ... before bringing his hands down in a move that made him look like a red, white and blue PEZ dispenser. Michel’s absence meant more was required of James White, who was obviously gassed after that trick-play beaut of a screen. What a well-planned, well-timed, well-better-than-anything-the-Packers-showed play call from New England. Edelman delivered calmly and coolly. Again.
2nd - Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News): The Patriots made the Tom Brady-Aaron Rodgers showdown more about their running game and defense, and that’s exactly why they remain the best team in the AFC.
2nd - Mark Maske (Washington Post): Tom Brady actually seemed confused at times Sunday night by the looks given to him by the Green Bay defense, but he figured out a way to win. Isn’t that how it always goes with Brady and the Patriots? This is resembling another one of those seasons in which a 1-2 start for New England gives way to a Super Bowl appearance.
2nd - MMQB Staff (SI): Remember when the Patriots were outside of our Top 10? One of these years we’ll learn not to write them off after a slow start. The Patriots not only jumped the Rams this week, but also the Chiefs.
2nd - Expert Consensus (Bleacher Report): There are three constants in life—death, taxes and the New England Patriots hitting the halfway point in the season with a stranglehold on the AFC East.
2nd - Joshua Schrock (NESN): The Patriots continue to get better and better with each week. New England’s defense stole the show in Week 9, holding Aaron Rodgers and the Packers to 17 points in a 31-17 win at Gillette Stadium. Tom Brady and Co. now have won six games in a row and have done so with key members of the offense missing a number of games. There’s no telling how good the Pats will be come January.
2nd - Staff (AP Pro32).
3rd - Rebecca Toback (SB Nation): The Patriots and Chiefs both moved down one spot, but more because of the Saints’ recent dominance than anything else. Those three teams along with the Rams are clearly separating from the pack and the 6-2 Chargers aren’t far behind...
3rd - Nate Davis (USA Today): Bill Belichick has to be wondering if former protégé Matt Patricia will provide any potential cheat codes to fellow rookie HC Mike Vrabel this week.
3rd - Mike Florio (ProFootballTalk): They may not lose again, playoffs included.
4th - Frank Schwab (Yahoo! Sports): Josh Gordon had 130 yards and it looks like he’s going to be a dominant force down the stretch. Who could have ever guessed that the Patriots paying nothing for a player of Gordon’s talent in a trade could end up being a good deal? Never saw that coming.
4th - Experts (ESPN): A 1-2 start wasn’t entirely unexpected, in part because Julian Edelman was serving a four-game NFL suspension and the Patriots have had some early-season struggles in past years, but that is the main reason the club has had a two-spot dip from preseason expectations. But credit also goes to the Rams and Chiefs, two teams who have far exceeded projections, even though the Patriots dealt the Chiefs their lone loss of the season.
4th - Joe Giglio (NJ.com): How impressive is New England’s success? Sunday’s win over the Packers barely registered here on these rankings. It was expected. Another 12-or-13-win season a bye week is on the way.
4th - Bryan Fischer (Athlon Sports): Even without Gronk, that was quite an impressive effort against the Packers on both sides of the ball. That slow start seems like it’s a thing of the past as the AFC favorites have another clear path to the Super Bowl.
4th - Russell S. Baxter (Fansided): The Pats own a two-game lead in the AFC East and the only other team above .500 are the erratic Miami Dolphins. Belichick’s club has now won six consecutive games after that 1-2 start and appears on course to capture a 10th straight division title. There’s still a lot of football ahead but this team has found its stride.
Week 10 Average Rank: 2.8 (+0.3)