Early on when it seemed as if every week the Pats had the win inked in before halftime, my hubby complained that he missed watching ‘real games’, which meant he missed the thrill of experiencing at least some measure of suspense against an opponent. Let’s just say the last few weeks he’s singing a different tune - swearing is more like it - and he’s not alone.
One stinking Week 9 road loss to a terrific Ravens team and BAM! it’s all over. Just like that. One poor performance from Tom Brady and the offense in Philly, to a solid Eagles team in a tough division battle, and BAM! Brady’s a bum who refuses to look at his rookie receivers. Forget that the defense and special teams played lights out and the Patriots won a gutsy, grind-it-out game. They’re in trouble because it wasn’t an easy win and the offense looked out of sync. So much for wanting a ‘real game’ full of suspense.
Sometimes I think Bengals fans get more enjoyment out of watching their team lose than Patriots fans do with their team at 9-1. How did we ever survive 2018? This time last year the Pats headed into their bye week with a 7-3 record and having all three losses on the road. The experts had them ranked from 4th-7th after a 34-10 thrashing from the Titans. Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t that flawed Pats team win the Super Bowl?
Next week may be more of the same with the 6-4 Cowboys coming to town. Dallas leads the NFC East with only one game up on the 2nd-place Eagles (who would have been tied for first if it weren’t for those meddling Pats.) In his rankings, Mike Florio warns the Patriots are only “one false move away from the Ravens being the No. 1 seed.” The Cowboys are also feeling the heat, and playing the Patriots is the ultimate measuring stick for every team. Game on, Baby! New England is favored by 6.5. Pats win and cover once again.
Around the AFC East:
Kansas City Chiefs (7-4) - Bye week
Los Angeles Chargers (4-7) - Bye week
1st - NFL Nation (ESPN): Most underrated player: Lawrence Guy, DT Big, powerful defensive tackles who don’t put up weighty sack numbers aren’t often part of the postgame conversation, especially if they prefer to be under the radar with the media, such as the 6-foot-4, 315-pound Guy does. But a large part of the success of the Patriots’ defense, which is the backbone of this year’s team, is Guy’s unsung work at the line of scrimmage -- particularly against the run. He also tallied his first career interception earlier this season on an exemplary play.
1st - Russell Baxter (Fansided): Recap: The reigning NFL champions were not only returning to the field after their off-week but looking to rebound from their first loss of the season. And it wouldn’t be easy as the Patriots would have to deal with the talented Eagles at Philadelphia. New England spotted the Birds a 10-0 second-quarter lead and then shut down the Eagles for the remainder of the game, scoring the final 17 points of the contest. Three Nick Folk field goals would be followed by a Julian Edelman touchdown pass to Phillip Dorsett and a two-point conversion run by James White. The Patriots’ stellar defense finished with five sacks of Carson Wentz, who lost one of his two fumbles.
Next Week: The Patriots looking to extend their recent winning ways against the Dallas Cowboys. New England has won the last five meetings between the clubs dating back to 1999 – three of those victories at home. Four years ago at AT&T Stadium, Belichick’s club rolled to a 30-6 win in the latest encounter between these fabled franchises.
Playoff hopes: With their ninth win of the season, the Patriots not only maintain their two-game lead in the AFC East but have clinched a 19th consecutive winning campaign. That’s one short of the NFL record owned by the Dallas Cowboys from 1966-85. More importantly, New England’s defense rebounded from that Ravens’ loss.
1st - Mike Cole (NESN): It wasn’t pretty and Lord knows Brady wasn’t happy with it, but a win at Philly this time of year is a good win. New England still owns the top spot in the AFC, and the defense rebounded well. As long as they hold the No. 1 seed and things go through Foxboro, the Patriots are the favorites.
1st - Frank Schwab (Yahoo! Sports): The Ravens were very good on Sunday but let’s not take what the Patriots did for granted. The Eagles might be disappointing but they’re far from a bad team. Winning by a touchdown at a talented team, holding them to 10 points, shouldn’t be the expectation no matter how good the Patriots have been. The Ravens took a huge step forward and this feels like a 1A/1B situation now, but the Patriots still get the slight edge. Even with some concerns about the offense, the Patriots have been the better team over the entirety of the season. But it’s close.
T-1 - MMQB Staff (SI): More of the same from the defending champs as Brady threw 15 incompletions in the first half but got just enough out of a sputtering offense. Props to the defense once again for their three quarters of shutdown play, and a tip of the cap to punter/kickoff man Jake Bailey, who pinned the Eagles inside their own 15 on five of his eight punts.
2nd - Staff (AP Pro32).
2nd - Lindsay Jones (The Athletic): Not exactly a convincing win over the Eagles, and the result is the Pats falling behind the Ravens for the first time this season. Tom Brady seemed pretty pissed as he left Philadelphia after the 17-10 win, and we’re afraid of what that means for the Patriots’ upcoming opponents Dallas and Houston.
2nd - Pete Prisco (CBS Sports): They have to get the offense going, but they will. I think Bill Belichick is using the regular season to get the offense right - much like he used to do for the defense.
2nd - Tom E. Curran (NBC Sports Boston): Best record in the AFC. Best defense in the NFL. Offensively impaired. Coming off a bye against a team with a merely OK defense, the Patriots appeared no closer to finding themselves on offense than they were in August. They’ll probably need to hold Dallas to fewer than 20, because it’s hard to envision an onslaught of production.
2nd - Peter Botte (NY Post): Tom Brady hasn’t been happy with the Patriots’ sluggish offense recently; Julian Edelman threw more touchdown passes this week against Philadelphia than the legendary quarterback did. At least Bill Belichick’s defense still is dominating, with the fewest points and yards per game allowed in the league, but it will be tested this week against Dallas and the league’s top offense (445 yards per game).
2nd - Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News): The Patriots beat the Eagles with more of the dominant defense we saw before they ran into the Ravens in Week 9. But their offense keeps leaving much to be desired, and Tom Brady is the first one to keep pointing that out. They need to be on point in that area against the Cowboys.
2nd - Nate Davis (USA Today): Offensive issues aside, at least kicking game appears stabilized with Nick Folk converting first seven attempts (5 FGs, 2 PATs).
2nd - Mark Maske (Washington Post): The Patriots got back into the win column Sunday in Philly after the loss in Baltimore followed by their bye week. The defense was typically sturdy. But the failure of the offense to click is becoming worrisome. The Patriots go for the sweep of the NFC East this weekend when they host the Cowboys.
3rd - Consensus (Bleacher Report): Here we go again. It’s become an annual tradition. Even though the Patriots are 9-1 after Sunday’s win over the Eagles, a listless performance against Philadelphia has led some pundits to wonder if the Patriots are among the NFL’s best teams. Sobleski has his doubts. “The Patriots look vulnerable,” he said. “Yes, the same statement is made pretty much every year. But Bill Belichick’s squad struggled during its last two games, and New England’s offensive issues aren’t easily repairable. The 9-1 record and strong defensive effort speak for themselves, but the Patriots are flawed and don’t quite stack up against the league’s very best.” However, Davenport isn’t about to write off Tommy Terrific and the defending champs. “The Patriots admittedly didn’t look great in Philly,” he wrote. “But they got the win that maintains their hold on the No.1 seed in the AFC. New England’s a lot less concerned about being the NFL’s No. 1 team in mid-November than it is with being in that spot the first weekend in February. So long as the AFC playoffs run through Gillette Stadium, the Patriots’ odds of pulling that off remain strong.”
3rd - Dan Hanzus (NFL.com): Credit the defense for powering the Patriots to another win. Steve Belichick’s unit held a listless Eagles attack to 255 yards, giving cover to a New England offense that struggled to string together quality drives. On a windy late afternoon in Philadelphia, Tom Brady was held to 4.6 yards per attempt. The Pats’ running game was unable to pick up the slack, managing just 74 yards on 22 carries. The Patriots’ best throw of the game? That would be the 15-yard touchdown strike from Julian Edelman to Phillip Dorsett on a trick play to put New England ahead for good in the third quarter. The Pats continue to win because all non-Lamar Jackson-based competition has no answers for New England’s blitz-heavy attack and star-laden secondary. Will that continue as the level of competition rises? The Pats get the Cowboys, Texans and Chiefs over the next three weeks.
3rd - Mike Florio (ProFootballTalk): They’re one false move away from the Ravens being the No. 1 seed.
4th - Doug Farrar (TouchdownWire): Tom Brady set a personal record with 14 first-half incompletions Sunday, connecting with his receivers on just 11 of 25 attempts for just 103 yards and no touchdowns. New England’s defense, which has kept this team in games when the offense could not, allowed a 95-yard touchdown drive that crossed the first and second quarters and took 9:33 off the clock. This Super Bowl LII rematch was going to be a slog all the way. In the end, Brady completed 26 of 47 passes for 216 yards in a game where the only Patriots touchdown pass was thrown by receiver Julian Edelman. New England was able to pull out a 17-10 win because it was facing an Eagles passing game more limited than its own, but there are issues here. This marked the third time since Week 4 that Brady has been held without a touchdown pass, and the 298 yards in total offense was the second-lowest of the season — ahead of only the 224 yards amassed against the Bills in Week 4. As a rushing team, the Patriots have a distinct low ceiling — they’ve rushed for 74 yards in four different games, including this one. The offensive line is subpar, Brady’s receivers struggle to gain separation at the best of times, and unless this defense maintains its historical pace, it’s difficult to see this team returning to the Super Bowl. Of course, many observers have thrown dirt on this offense before, only to be proven wrong, but this feels like a systemic issue.
AVERAGE RANK: 2.1 (-0.4)