The Patriots went from a weird Week four to a being wiped off the schedule in a Week five forced Bye.
I’m still wrapping my head around New England’s players pushing back against playing last Monday night. The league expected the Pats to play - even after their facility was shut down Sunday following another positive COVID-19 test, and even though the team had a week of only virtual meetings, one walkthrough and no on-field practices. The NFL put the entire team in a bad situation for the Chiefs matchup, and it was refreshing to see the players use their power to demand safe, fair playing conditions. Bet some other teams took notice.
The experts took the Patriots’ week off in wildly different ways. Nate Davis not only dismissed the Week 4 loss to the Chiefs as an anomaly but also moved the Pats up eight points. On the other end, Frank Schwab and Doug Farrar each dropped the Pats four points. The rest of the rankers kept them within a point or two of last week, averaging in the 10-11 range. I’m not going to argue.
Up next is a two home-game stretch against the Broncos and 49ers. Pats have a solid chance to meet the Bills in Week 8 at 4-2. A week ago I picked the Pats to beat Denver without Cam Newton at QB, so I’ll certainly keep that bet with him in as starter. Can’t wait to have a Sunday again, with Patriots football.
Around the AFC East:
New England Patriots (2-2) vs. Denver Broncos (1-3)
Buffalo Bills (4-1) vs. Kansas City Chiefs (4-1)
Miami Dolphins (2-3) vs. New York Jets (0-5)
Pittsburgh Steelers (4-0) vs. Cleveland Browns (4-1)
Tennessee Titans (4-0) vs. Houston Texans (1-4)
Baltimore Ravens (4-1) at Philadelphia Eagles (1-3)
Indianapolis Colts (3-2) vs. Cincinnati Bengals (1-3)
Jacksonville Jaguars (1-4) vs. Detroit Lions (1-3)
Las Vegas Raiders (3-2) - Bye
Los Angeles Chargers (1-4) - Bye
4th - Nate Davis (USA Davis): Let’s just toss out their Cam-less loss at Kansas City. You hate to say Pats caught a break with Week 5 COVID bye, but presumably now having Newton for next game should put them right back on track to posting viable defense of AFC East throne. Their handling of Las Vegas in Week 3 also looks much more impressive in context of this week’s league-wide snapshot. (LW: 12)
6th - Mike Florio (ProFootballTalk): The fact that a team as buttoned up as the Patriots are having COVID-19 issues shows how unrelenting it is. (LW: 6)
9th - Staff (AP Pro32). (LW: 10).
10th - Adam London (NESN): The Patriots fell just short in Seattle and gave the Chiefs a true test despite a slew of obstacles. With Cam Newton and Stephon Gilmore in the fold, we believe New England can hang with anyone in the AFC. (LW: 11)
11th - NFL Nation (ESPN): Biggest weakness: Tight end production. Backup quarterback almost was the choice here after four interceptions in Kansas City in Week 4 (one was more a result of wide receiver Julian Edelman letting the ball slip through his hands). But tight end production in the passing game was ultimately the pick based on a larger, four-game sample size. The Patriots have three catches for 44 yards from their tight ends. This comes one year after they ranked last in the NFL in tight end receptions and targets. (LW: 10)
11th - Dan Hanzus (NFL.com): The Patriots had another player test positive for COVID-19 on Sunday morning, leading to a third shutdown of the team facility in 10 days and the postponement of the scheduled Week 5 matchup against the Broncos. New England will now hope to play its game against Denver in Week 6, one of a slew of schedule changes announced by the league on Sunday. (LW: 10)
11th - Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News): The Patriots had a weird Week 4 and didn’t have a Week 5. New England would seem like the last team to struggle with COVID-19 protocol under Bill Belichick, but here we are. Even with Cam Newton and the defense, it’s still looking like a wild-card team at best. (LW: 10)
11th - Danny Kelly (The Ringer): Contenders. (LW: 11)
12th - Consensus (Bleacher Report): NFL teams typically don’t like to have to bye weeks early in the season, especially when that bye week was unexpected. But all things considered, the New England Patriots probably don’t mind having their Week 5 date with the Denver Broncos pushed back a week.
After all, the Patriots would have had to face the Broncos without starting quarterback Cam Newton and cornerback Stephon Gilmore, both of whom are sidelined after testing positive for COVID-19.
An additional positive test on Sunday morning caused the Patriots’ facilities to be closed and the game to be rescheduled for Week 6. That game will be contingent on no additional positive tests, and as we’ve seen in Nashville, once things start to snowball in that regard, it can get out of control quickly. (LW: 12)
12th - Gary Gramling (SI): That we live in a world where either Brian Hoyer or Jarrett Stidham was almost starting for the Patriots instead of Cam Newton is difficult to wrap your head around. We’ll forgive Bill Belichick and his staff since this defense has managed to not miss a beat despite losing Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy. With Newton coming back this week, they can play the defense-plus-ball control formula as well as any team in football. (LW: 10)
12th - Mark Maske (Washington Post): The postponement of the game against the Broncos until Sunday increases the chances that Cam Newton and Stephon Gilmore will be back on the field. (LW: 11)
12th - Peter Botte (NY Post). (LW: 10)
14th - Doug Farrar (TouchdownWire): The Patriots lost their opportunity to play the Broncos in Week 4 due to multiple positive COVID tests, but as the team had no positive tests on Sunday or Monday, they’re on track for the re-scheduled game this Sunday. If that goes off without a hitch, it’s possible that Cam Newton, who missed New England’s Week 4 loss to the Chiefs after a positive test, might be back on the field. Given the options behind Newton on the Patriots’ depth chart, Bill Belichick is probably praying for the best possible news. (LW: 10)
14th - Pete Prisco (CBS Sports): COVID has impacted them in a big way. But the postponement of their game with the Broncos actually might help since Cam Newton should be back. (LW: 13)
15th - Frank Schwab (Yahoo! Sports): Not that the Patriots were hoping for it, but let’s be honest: Having their game being pushed back to Week 6 is a pretty big break if quarterback Cam Newton and cornerback Stephon Gilmore can be activated off the reserve/COVID-19 list and play. It’s not how they drew it up, but it might save them a loss.(LW: 11)
AVG. RANK: 10.9 [last week: 10.5]