Tough loss last Sunday but with the way the week has been going for the Patriots, I’m more than ready to move on to Cincinnati. The experts have the team ranked 6th, which sounds about right. Third seems a bit low, and ninth might be too high, so somewhere in the middle is reasonable.
One part of this year’s team that has drawn me in, is they don’t give up. Resilience is attractive and the players have it in spades. This despite a harsh local media keeps the focus on player mistakes, roster holes and everything that’s missing or wrong on the roster.
The thing is, even with all the “issues” being talked about, the Patriots still have a shot this year. I’m on the side of resilience and fighting to the end. Patriots win in Cincy this Sunday and [knocks wood] also beat any potential disciplinary measures from 345 Park Avenue in midtown Manhattan.
Around the AFC East:
3rd - Russell S. Baxter (Fansided): Recap: The defending Super Bowl champions faced a fifth consecutive 2018 playoff participant when they hosted the Kansas City Chiefs. New England’s proud defense gave up four scores through the air in last week’s loss at Houston, equaling the total the Patriots surrendered in their first 11 contests. On Sunday, Bill Belichick’s club gave up 283 yards passing to Patrick Mahomes, sacking him just once. The opportunistic Pats came up with two more takeaways but Tom Brady and the club’s struggling offense had another shaky outing. New England managed only 278 total yards and the team was only 2-of-12 on third down and just 1-of-3 on fourth-down conversion attempts. Next Week: The Patriots head to the Queen City for the first time since 2013 as these franchises meet for fourth time in seven years and the first time since ’16. Dating back to ’04, Belichick’s team owns a 6-1 advantage over the Bengals and came away with a 35-17 triumph three years ago at Foxborough when the clubs last clashed. Playoff Hopes: Thanks to consecutive losses to the Texans and Chiefs, Belichick’s team still hasn’t secured a playoff berth. It figures to be only a matter of time but the Patriots have now dropped three games this season, all to teams currently leading or tied for the top spot in their respective divisions. It’s a club out of sync these days.
4th - Tom E. Curran (NBC Sports Boston): AFC Rankings: Neither of their back-to-back losses did much to diminish what I think of their defense. Both games had short-field touchdowns that were set up by interceptions. They held running games in check. They just let up points to good offenses. But they are so hamstrung by their offensive personnel, lack of a running game and inability to give Tom Brady time that they are tail-spinning.
5th - Lindsay Jones (The Athletic): Two things can be true: The officials badly hurt the Patriots’ chances to win (and maybe even cost them a win) Sunday against the Chiefs; and The Patriots’ offense is deeply flawed, perhaps irreparably so. While the Patriots certainly can hold on to the No. 2 seed, it’s concerning that New England has already lost to the other three AFC division leaders.
5th - NFL Nation (ESPN): The Patriots haven’t scored 30 points in six straight games, one shy of tying the longest streak in the Bill Belichick/Tom Brady era, which happened in 2002 and again in 2005. Entering Week 15, they have a 1.0 rating on offense, which is 14th in the NFL. It’s unusual to see the offense be closer to average.
T-5th - MMQB Staff (SI): Sorry to be that guy, but the Patriots have several gripes from this one: a likely scoop-and-score blown dead, a touchdown ruled out of bounds and, if you want to get picky, a missed PI call on the final drive. Still, the offense stunk as bad or worse than the refs for most of the game despite a great second half from the defense that kept New England in range. An impotent rushing attack (22 carries, 94 total yards) forced Tom Brady to stand behind a depleted offensive line and try to find somebody other than the oft-doubled Julian Edelman (95 yards, TD) to throw the ball.
5th - Doug Farrar (TouchdownWire): Kansas City’s 23-16 win over the Patriots on Sunday started oddly for the Chiefs and ended in highly frustrating fashion for the Patriots. An equipment container belonging to Andy Reid’s team that contained helmets, shoulder pads and footballs wasn’t unloaded at Gillette Stadium and was subsequently sent to New Jersey. Had there not been efforts to get the gear back to Foxborough in time for the game, the Chiefs would have had to forfeit a game for the first time in the league’s history.
Reid and Bill Belichick probably wished that Jerome Boger and his officiating crew skipped the game altogether. Boger’s crew robbed receiver N’Keal Harry of a touchdown, got the yardage wrong on an illegal use of hands call on Chiefs guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, gave a quick whistle on a turnover that could have been a defensive touchdown for the Patriots, missed an obvious defensive pass interference call on Kansas City cornerback Kendall Fuller when he was covering receiver Phillip Dorsett late in the fourth quarter, called Chiefs right tackle Mitchell Schwartz for holding on a play that was borderline at best, and gave Kansas City center Austin Reiter an illegal blindside block penalty that appeared equally suspect.
5th - Frank Schwab (Yahoo! Sports): I’m not sure what exactly happened and most of the Patriots’ newest videotaping incident is a bad look at very least. But I just can’t buy that the Patriots are so brazen they’d risk being caught filming the 1-12 Bengals’ sideline from the press box. It really doesn’t make much logical sense.
6th - Pete Prisco (CBS Sports): The offense continues to be a major issue, so much so they can’t win a home game in December. That tells us there are major problems.
6th - Mike Cole (NESN): The Patriots’ three losses this season have been to Baltimore, Houston and Kansas City. Yes, it’s fair to wonder just how good they are and whether they can beat good teams. We won’t get an answer to either of those questions Sunday when they take on the lowly Bengals.
6th - Dan Hanzus (NFL.com): Another week, another four quarters of evidence the Patriots’ lack of firepower could be a fatal flaw. The Chiefs became the latest team to shut down New England’s offense, as Tom Brady was limited to just 169 yards passing (his second-lowest total of the season) in a 23-16 loss at Foxborough that snapped a 21-game home winning streak. The Pats are 2-3 since ending the first half of their schedule a perfect 8-0. Brady struggled to make things happen against an aggressive K.C. defense that brought an array of blitz packages. That two of New England’s biggest gains (including one of its touchdowns) came on trick plays feeds into the idea that the Pats are incapable of landing chunk plays without deviating from their standard offense. We know better than to count this team out ... but there is legitimate cause for concern that feels different than what we’ve seen during past years in New England.
6th - Mark Maske (Washington Post): The Patriots had a legitimate gripe about the officiating blunders that plagued them in Sunday’s loss at home to the Chiefs. Stephon Gilmore might have scored if the play had not been erroneously whistled dead on his fumble recovery. N’Keal Harry did score when he was mistakenly ruled out of bounds. It’s doubtful anyone wants to hear about the woes of the six-time Super Bowl champs, however.
7th - Consensus (Bleacher Report): There are few things more dependable than the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium in December. Entering Week 14, the Pats hadn’t lost a December home game since 2015. That streak ended against the Kansas City Chiefs—because the Patriots have become anything but dependable offensively. Against the Chiefs, the Patriots were held to just 278 yards of offense and 16 points. Quarterback Tom Brady completed just 19 of 36 passes for 169 yards with a passer rating south of 65. New England converted just two of 12 third downs. No team over the past two decades has circled the wagons better than the Patriots. But Davenport has reached the point where he’s skeptical that rally is coming in 2019. “Here’s the cold, hard reality of New England’s situation,” Davenport said. “The Patriots are not a good offensive football team. Outside of Julian Edelman, the wide receivers can’t get open consistently. Tom Brady is looking his age. And there’s been nothing to indicate that a sudden turnaround is coming. The Pats are going to win the AFC East again in 2019. But it’s getting harder by the week to imagine them winning anything beyond that.”
7th - Peter Botte (NY Post): Still not ready to breathlessly count out the defending champs just yet, but stories about hometown boos, Brady’s balky elbow and new cheating allegations sure have made for a fun couple of days of reading about Bill Belichick’s team. The Pats’ have a get-well game against 1-12 Cincinnati this Sunday, but the Bills could get a crack at tying for the AFC East lead in Week 16.
7th - Mike Florio (ProFootballTalk): Apparently, they were “on to Cincinnati” a week too early.
7th - Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News): The Patriots lost their second consecutive game, and we can tell their offensive struggle is real because the trend goes against what we usually expect from Tom Brady and Bill Belichick this time of year. They have time before the playoffs to figure it out, but there are no easy answers.
9th - Dan Parzych (NFL Spinzone): The good news for the New England Patriots is with the way this offense has looked in recent weeks, the group should be able to get back on track in one of the best ways possible during Week 15 with an extremely favorable matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals. Controversial plays or not towards the end of the game, this still doesn’t take away from the previous struggles by New England in general over the last few weeks on the offensive side of the football.
After putting up just 16 points at home during Sunday’s loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, the Patriots no longer seem like a lock for a first-round bye in the AFC playoff picture, and could even receive some surprise trouble from the Buffalo Bills over the last few weeks.
Luckily for New England, with two of their final three games against the Bengals and Miami Dolphins along with a home meeting against the Bills, the Patriots should still find a way to earn the No. 2 seed since it’s unlikely they catch the Baltimore Ravens.
New England is always considered a team that finds a way to overcome these kinds of issues when needed the most, but there seems to be something different about this year’s squad, and the last month is the perfect example of the concerns on offense the rest of the way.
9th - Nate Davis (USA Today): Their loss to Kansas City in 2014 kicked off Bill Belichick’s “We’re on to Cincinnati” mantra ... which led to a Super Bowl title. So ...
AVERAGE RANK: 6 (-1.6)