Starting this week’s column with the down & dirty, and highlighting the best hyperbole from the experts below. Nate Davis kicks it off with a line so rich it should come with it’s own ice cream flavor, “Dynasty death spiral.” I mean, who wouldn’t order a decadent double scoop of that? Here are some other gems, after a quick perusal:
...some worry is in order. Perhaps some fretting...
...whispers about the slow roll downward of Tom Brady’s play.
Patriots are a miserable 3-5 on the road this season.
The avocado juice doesn’t seem to be working for Tom Brady anymore. And whatever fad diet Brady’s guru has the defense on right now, is giving them a real case of diarrhea on the field. How else can you explain the just how leaky they are?
...mistakes and misplays...
The cracks are showing and the dynasty could be coming to an end.
...allowing the Miami Miracle and then penalty after penalty...
And many more, but you get the idea. The Patriots are not allowed to be unexceptional. They’ve already set the highest of bars and will not get a media pass for being merely an above average team — especially in December, where perfection is the standard. Hands start wringing if the team loses to a division rival on the road where they’ve had trouble before. But losing again, this time to the playoff-bound, AFC North-leading Steelers, the roof is caving in and it’s all over. RIP Patriots dynasty, and might as well jettison Belichick, Brady, Edelman and Gronk while we’re all in full tantrum. Get Jimmy G. back, start drafting shiny-new, fast wide receivers and start fresh. Yeah, that’s the ticket.
Week 16 brings the Buffalo Bills to New England. I’m going against the ‘doom and gloom, Pats are giving up’ grain and picking them to win by 14. It ain’t over til it’s over, Baby!
Around the AFC East:
6th - Pete Prisco (CBS Sports): They are still going to win the AFC East, but they just don’t look like the same team as in past years. They need to pick it up.
6th - Expert Consensus (Bleacher Report): If there’s one team in the NFL that isn’t going to panic, it’s the New England Patriots. The roster is stacked with players who have been there and done that, who have overcome adversity and climbed the proverbial mountain.
But after the Pats lost back-to-back games in December for the first time since 2002, it’s fair to wonder if some worry is in order. Perhaps some fretting. ...
6th - MMQB Staff (SI): Patriots don’t look like the Patriots in loss to Steelers.
6th - Elliot Harrison (NFL.com): Gloom and doom in New England following another loss this past weekend. Frankly, the Steelers were desperate enough (and are capable enough) to beat any team at Heinz. Been hearing the whispers about the slow roll downward of Tom Brady’s play. These are overblown. Admittedly, Brady is not enjoying his finest season, but he’s been far from subpar. Of his 11 misses at Heinz Field, several were on throws into tight coverage or on hurried end-game attempts. He did seem to shy away from pressure up the middle on the game’s final toss, fading to his left before flicking the ball with his feet nowhere near set, which only furthers the idea that Brady might now indeed be mortal. Putting only a touchdown and a field goal on the board ain’t enough, and Brady would be the first to say that. The encouraging sign here -- and the reason to believe all the “Pats are done” chatter is simply that: chatter -- is that the defense allowed 17 points after getting embarrassed in Miami. New England stunk against the run (again), but rarely broke. Only the Ravens have held Pittsburgh to fewer points at home this year, and they’re the top scoring defense in the league.
7th - Frank Schwab (Yahoo! Sports): The Patriots are a miserable 3-5 on the road this season. And after losing a grip on the No. 2 seed, they’re looking at possibly having to win at Houston and at Kansas City (or the L.A. Chargers) to make another Super Bowl. We’ve seen the Patriots turn things around before, but the road is a lot tougher this season.
7th - Experts (ESPN): Biggest breakthrough: CB J.C. Jackson. The undrafted rookie out of Maryland made the 53-man roster out of training camp and is playing meaningful snaps in some of the team’s most important games -- and holding up well. Could this be a Malcolm Butler-type story? It’s early yet, but Jackson has flashed confidence, ball skills and fluid movement skills while showing that the NFL stage isn’t too big for him.
7th - Joe Giglio (NJ.com): The Patriots are currently slated to play in the opening week of the postseason for the first time since the 2009 season.
7th - Staff (AP Pro32).
7th - Russell S. Baxter (Fansided): Recap: Stunned on the final play of the game last week at Miami, Bill Belichick’s team was looking to rebound against a Pittsburgh Steelers’ team that they have had their way with in recent seasons. But the Patriots reached the end zone just once all afternoon and that was on a first-quarter 63-yard TD pass from Tom Brady to Chris Hogan. Once again, New England’s defense struggled to stop the run as the Steelers gashed Belichick’s defense for 158 yards on the ground on 25 attempts. Safety Duron Harmon picked off Ben Roethlisberger twice but the team really failed to take advantage of those miscues and finished with a 3-5 road record this season.
Playoff hopes: Make it two straight losses for Belichick’s team for the second time in 2018. And now the Patriots find themselves in a tricky spot when it comes to securing one of those top two seeds in the AFC. Still, perplexing New England can grab the AFC East with a win over the Bills or a Dolphins’ loss in Week 16.
8th - Ryan Van Bibber (SB Nation): New England Patriots: I just don’t know. The avocado juice doesn’t seem to be working for Tom Brady anymore. And whatever fad diet Brady’s guru has the defense on right now, is giving them a real case of diarrhea on the field. How else can you explain the just how leaky they are? The most troubling sign of all is that a team coached by Bill Belichick is on a two-game skid because he shot himself in the foot against the Dolphins. That’s very un-Belichickian.
8th - Mike Florio (ProFootballTalk): Write them off, and then they rebound. Will they be able to do it this time?
8th - Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News): One week it’s their defense. Another week it’s their offense. Tom Brady looks off, Rob Gronkowski still looks slower and their running game hasn’t come through the way they like late in the season. Identity crisis is the fundamental part of their Super Bowl hangover.
8th - Geoff Lowe (Sportsnet): Uncharacteristic mistakes and misplays means the Patriots have lost back-to-back games in December for the first time since 2002.
9th - Nate Davis (USA Today): Dynasty death spiral? They won’t win 12 games for first time since 2009. They may have lost bye. Brady, Gronk don’t look right. Or is signature surge around corner?
10th - Mark Maske (Washington Post): The cracks are showing and the dynasty could be coming to an end. The Patriots are 3-5 on the road this season, and they’ll have to go on the road for the second round of the playoffs. They won’t have a first-round bye unless they can move up from the No. 3 seed. This has not been their formula for reaching Super Bowls.
11th - Bryan Fischer (Athlon Sports): It’s not the back-to-back losses that have to be concerning, it’s the way they’ve happened — mistakes such as allowing the Miami Miracle and then penalty after penalty against the Steelers. It’s pretty clear that if the team wants to get back to the Super Bowl, they’ll have to go on the road in the AFC to do so.
Week 15 Average Rank: 7.6 (-2.5)