BOOM! It’s late September and the Patriots finally get hit by a doubter in the Power Rankings. Doug Farrar is the first and only expert so far to bump the Pats down a notch to elevate his real love, Patrick Mahomes “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways” to the top.
What can we say about Patrick Mahomes that hasn’t already been said? Maybe that he’s taking the concept of statistical regression to the woodshed in ways few athletes ever have. After all, you’d expect that a second-year quarterback who threw 50 touchdown passes in the regular season alone to have some inevitable bumps the next year. Only Tom Brady and Peyton Manning had thrown for 50 or more touchdown passes in a season before, and they were years beyond Mahomes in their development. Both Brady and Manning experienced regression after their historic seasons. But after three games in a 2019 season in which he’s already torched the Jaguars and Ravens, two of his most able challengers in 2018, Mahomes is now on pace for 437 completions in 637 attempts for 6,373 yards, 53 touchdowns and no interceptions for the 2019 season.
Bet against Mahomes ending the season with these kinds of preposterous numbers? Not me.
Granted, Mahomes has been on fire and it’s easy to see why he’s the latest NFL analysts’ crush, but frankly Tom Brady hasn’t done anything through three weeks to warrant a demotion. The Patriots aren’t on top just because they are the defending champions, they’ve earned it. We’ve all been hearing how the competition hasn’t been fierce, but aside from the feisty Ravens, the Chiefs haven’t exactly run through the talent-gauntlet either. Hard to know in what ways New England will have evolved between now and December 8th when they meet KC at Gillette, but we do know a lot can happen. For now I’m confidently keeping the Pats at the top of the rankings until there’s a reason for them to drop.
Week 4 in the NFL brings one battle of the undefeated, Patriots at Bills, and one battle of the completely defeated, Cincinnati at Pittsburgh - another Monday night doozy. Once again, I’m picking the Pats to win and to cover (14+).
Side note: One year ago the Pats ranked between 6th-24th heading into Week 4. What a difference a year makes.
Around the AFC East:
New England (3-0) at Buffalo (3-0)
Miami (0-3) vs. LA Chargers (1-2)
NY Jets (0-3) - Bye Week
Kansas City (3-0) at Detroit (2-0-1)
Houston (2-1) vs. Carolina (1-2)
Baltimore (2-1) vs. Cleveland (1-2)
Indianapolis (2-1) vs. Oakland (1-2)
Jacksonville (1-2) at Denver (0-3)
Tennessee (1-2) at Atlanta (1-2)
Cincinnati (0-3) at Pittsburgh (0-3)
1st - Staff (AP Pro32).
1st - Lindsay Jones (The Athletic): Lest anyone think we’re not giving the Patriots their due in the rankings, let’s be clear: They are No. 1 for a reason, and that reason is no longer just because they are the defending champs. They’ve been untouchable on the field through three weeks, and the Patriots’ defense has yet to allow a touchdown. We look forward to the Patriots engaging in more competitive games in the future, perhaps starting this week against Buffalo?
1st - Consensus (Bleacher Report): It was a tumultuous week for the Patriots, filled with the sort of off-field distractions that are anathema to Bill Belichick.
But after releasing Antonio Brown earlier in the week, the Patriots on Sunday did what they do best: got back to the business of winning.
Granted, the victory came against an overmatched team that managed just 105 total yards, but the Patriots continued to play lights-out defense—New York’s two scores came on a muffed punt and a Jarrett Stidham pick-six.
... The Patriots will play their first opponent that has won a game in 2019 on Sunday when they travel to Buffalo to face the Bills. It’s a series the Pats lead 15-3 since 2010, because of course they do.
1st - NFL Nation (ESPN): What we got wrong in preseason: That Jamie Collins Sr. would have to fight for a roster spot. It sounded good in theory, considering the Patriots had traded Collins in 2016 for the low price of a late third-round draft choice, but it didn’t factor in that Collins was returning to the team with a completely different mindset/approach than he had in his first stint. Collins has arguably been the Patriots’ best defender through three games (18 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 2 interceptions).
1st - MMQB Staff (SI): The Patriots are the first team since the 1944 Giants to allow zero rushing or passing touchdowns through the first three games. The G-Men’s first three opponents that season were the Boston Yanks, Brooklyn Tigers and Card-Pitt (the wartime mashup of the Cardinals and Steelers). This has been your NFL 100 fact for the day.
1st - Tom E. Curran (NBC Sports Boston): They are plus-89 in point differential and have allowed three points defensively so far. Offensive attrition aside, in which week will opponents cross the 100-point threshold for point scored against this defense? Week 10? The points allowed record for a defense in a 16-game season is 158 by the Ravens in 2000. The Patriots (3-0) have a 155-point cushion over their next 13 games to match that. Bills this week. A couple of 3-0 teams in the AFC East. Might be sneaky competitive.
1st - Chris Grenham (NESN): New England’s defense still hasn’t given up a touchdown after three games this season. Losing Antonio Brown would hurt most offenses, but expect the Patriots to keep on rolling into their Week 4 matchup with the undefeated Buffalo Bills.
1st - Dan Hanzus (NFL.com): The ill-conceived Antonio Brown experiment didn’t work out, but everything else is going to plan for the Patriots. The story of New England’s 3-0 start has been the defense, which hasn’t allowed a touchdown since last season’s AFC Championship Game. On Sunday, the Pats held a pathetic Jets offense to just 105 total yards on 2.2 yards per play; New York’s two touchdowns came on a pick-six and a muffed punt. It’s a good thing the D has dominated at a historic level, because the Patriots have some issues on offense. Julian Edelman exited Sunday’s win with a rib injury, further thinning a wide receiver unit that trimmed Brown from its ranks on Friday. Depth is also a concern for the banged-up offensive line. Dante Scarnecchia’s unit will be tested in a big way this week on the road against the 3-0 Bills.
1st - Darryl Slater (NJ.com): Analysis: Undefeated Patriots at undefeated Bills. That should be fun.
1st - Peter Botte (NY Post): It was nice of Bill Belichick to aid the Jets’ back-door cover by inserting backup quarterback Jarrett Stidham for the late Jamal Adams pick-6. Not so nice? His death stare at CBS sideline reporter Dana Jacobson when she dared to inquire about Antonio Brown’s release before Sunday’s game. The Pats have outscored their opponents 106-17 through three weeks, and their defense hasn’t allowed a TD yet entering this week’s AFC East showdown against unbeaten Buffalo.
1st - Mike Florio (ProFootballTalk): The Patriots now have more regular-season wins in one decade than any other team in NFL history. Until the NFL gives out trophies for that achievement, the Patriots won’t care.
1st - Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News): The Patriots didn’t have the cleanest dominance against the Jets, but considering they were recovering from the Antonio Brown whirlwind, they still proved many times over that they are complete without him offensively no matter who’s out there. Their defense is the real story, having yet to give up a touchdown.
1st - Nate Davis (USA Today): Good thing defense off to historically good start — it has yet to allow a TD — as offense continues to lose players to injury ... and AB.
1st - Mark Maske (Washington Post): No Antonio Brown in the lineup? No problem, at least not Sunday. But the WR depth becomes an issue again, particularly in the short term with Julian Edelman’s injury. What the defense is doing is amazing. It has not allowed a touchdown by an opposing offense this season, and it limited the Jets to 105 yards of total offense.
1st - Frank Schwab (Yahoo! Sports): With 2:03 left in the fourth quarter of the AFC championship game, Damien Williams of the Chiefs scored on a 2-yard touchdown run. It was Jan. 20. That’s the last time the Patriots defense allowed a touchdown, and they have played four games since then.
2nd - Doug Farrar (TouchdownWire): Only the Bills stand in the way of the Patriots matching the 1976 and 2000 Steelers as the only teams in NFL history to go without allowing an offensive touchdown in five straight games. There is a “Tiger Slam” element to New England’s streak, since it started in Super Bowl LIII, but since Bill Belichick’s crew shut down Sean McVay’s Rams, 13-3, we’ll allow it. The larger story, as it’s been all season, is that New England’s secondary is most likely the strongest position group of any in the league, and it’s the defense that’s allowed the Patriots to overcome injuries on offense — not to mention the ridiculous Antonio Brown drama. The 30-14 win over the Jets (who scored touchdowns on a punt return fumble recovery and a pick-six against Jarrett Stidham, Tom Brady’s backup) was an easy coronation for this defense. The Bills present tougher stuff, especially on the ground, but it could be said that New England doesn’t face a top-level offense until November battles with the Ravens, Eagles and Cowboys.