Welcome to ‘the upside-down’, the weird world of the Patriots sitting at 2-4 seven weeks into the season. The mood in the house during the second half was an unholy mix of anger, resignation and mourning. The 20 to early 30-somethings were all in shock because they were too young to remember what a below-average Patriots team looked like. Ever.
The older ones [cough] me included, used to treat each win from the early Belichick years as a fluke. It probably took until the third duck boat parade to finally embrace the Patriots as the new NFL elite standard. Not just a double dynasty but the best damn franchise in the league for two decades. Man, it felt good to be the king.
Enter 2020 and the debacle vs. the 49ers. I was so sure the Pats would win and show the league they were still a competitive force. As Kramer would say, I was WAAAY off!
What I do know is the view from the penthouse suite is worlds away from garage-level. When Jarrett Stidham tripped behind the line, I could almost feel the elevator going down while management relocated us to a more affordable room. All evidenced in the power rankings below.
Even after a week of my optimism getting hit harder than N’Keal Harry, I still believe Bill Belichick will figure out how to stop the slide. Even if this year isn’t championship-level, I’ll always watch and respect a team that keeps fighting. The 2010 and 2013 teams were two of my favorites because they didn’t give up. Here’s hoping the 2020 Patriots decide they want to be that kind of team too. Picking the Patriots over the Bills in Week 8.
Around the AFC East:
Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6) - Bye
Houston Texans (1-6) - Bye
14th - Conor Orr (SI): Are you going to put them any lower than 15th? Are you really that brave? I don’t need to be part of Belichick’s game of three-dimensional chess. This team is still good. I believe! (LW: 17)
17th - Justin Leger (NBC Sports Boston): Man, where do we begin? The Patriots’ Week 7 loss to the 49ers was disastrous. Cam Newton tossed three interceptions, Jarrett Stidham took over and threw one more, and New England’s defense couldn’t stop a nosebleed. All of that equaled a 33-6 loss and a lot of question marks heading into the Pats’ Week 8 matchup vs. the AFC East-leading Bills. (LW: 13)
17th - Mike Florio (ProFootballTalk): They’re on the ropes, and every AFC playoff contender should be hoping that someone punches them through. (LW: 12)
18th - Frank Schwab (Yahoo! Sports): Bill Belichick on Sunday’s game, the worst home loss for the Patriots in the Belichick era: “We didn’t perform well enough in any area, offense, defense, special teams, running, passing, defending the run, defend being the pass, ball security, tackling, blocking, none of it was good enough. Maybe I left something out, but we just got to do a better job all the way across the board.” That sums it up pretty well. Nothing is good for the Patriots right now. If the Patriots lose at the Bills next Sunday, they’ll be 3.5 games behind Buffalo in the AFC East. (LW: 18)
18th - NFL Nation (ESPN): Would the real Cam Newton please stand up? Is it the QB who electrified New England in the first weeks of the season? Or the struggling QB who hasn’t looked the same over his next three games? The contrast is striking. Fewer interceptions and better accuracy and decision-making are where the improvement starts. (LW: 14)
18th - Dan Hanzus (NFL.com): It’s difficult to find positives for the Patriots as they attempt to regroup from the worst home loss of the Bill Belichick era. New England was blown out on Sunday because the defense made Niners reserve running back Jeff Wilson look like a young Gale Sayers, and Cam Newton remains completely lost at sea since his return from the COVID-19 list. Newton threw three interceptions and managed just 98 passing yards before being benched in favor of Jarrett Stidham early in the fourth quarter. After the game, Belichick said Newton will “absolutely” remain the starter, but that may speak more to the coach’s lack of a better option than to a belief that Cam will turn it around. That this is all happening while Tom Brady thrives in Tampa serves as an extra twist of the knife. (LW: 12)
18th - Staff (AP Pro32). (LW: 17)
20th - Pete Prisco (CBS Sports): It looks like it’s going to be a long season. In fact, they face a major win-or-else game this week with Buffalo. (LW: 16)
20th - Consensus (Bleacher Report): The greatest dynasty in NFL history is dead.
After getting trounced by the San Francisco 49ers, the Patriots have dropped three consecutive games for the first time since 2002. Per Mark Daniels of the Providence Journal, the 27-point margin of defeat was the worst home loss of the Bill Belichick era and second-worst overall. The Pats lost two in a row at Gillette Stadium for the first time since 2008.
After throwing for just 98 yards and three interceptions, quarterback Cam Newton was benched for Jarrett Stidham. Newton has barely cracked 250 yards combined over the past two weeks to go with five picks and no touchdowns.
But while Newton has struggled, Davenport thinks that he’s far from the team’s only problem.
“The passing-game weapons in New England might be the worst in the NFL,” he said. “The defense is starting to buckle under the strain of carrying the team. There’s more than just one problem facing the Pats, and there isn’t a magic bullet that will fix everything. This is a 6-10 team.”
“Goodnight, Patriots dynasty,” Gagnon added. “New England is now just 4-8 in its last 12 games (including playoffs), and it’s been outscored 77-28 in three consecutive losses. It’s hard to believe I’m saying this, but it’s time for a rebuild in Foxborough.” (LW: 16)
21st - Danny Kelly (The Ringer): Patriots dropped from ‘The contenders’ category to ‘The muddled middle’. (LW: 16)
21st - Nate Davis (USA Today): Time to start chiseling dynastic gravestone? Worst home loss under Bill Belichick. First three-game losing streak in 286 games. Tom Brady thriving in Tampa. Buffalo now up three games in AFC East win column. Grim. (LW: 14)
21st - Peter Botte (NY Post). (LW: 16)
21st - Mark Schofield (TouchdownWire): What the heck was that?
The New England Patriots faced perhaps their biggest regular season game in years on Sunday, as they looked to turn the page on a woeful loss to the Denver Broncos from a week ago. The franchise looked to avoid a winless October for the first time in a long time, and in doing so get back above .500 and try to keep pace with the Buffalo Bills in the AFC East. You could argue they never had a chance.
This is not a good football team right now. It is a one-dimensional team that has to stay in positive game script situations to be effective offensively, but that creates the smallest of margins for error for their entire team. Cam Newton is struggling, the defense was porous at times, and that leads us to a question: Are they sellers?
Now they face the Bills in a must-win game that could define not just their season, but their future. Win on Sunday against the Bills and they could perhaps get themselves back into the mix of things in the AFC East and in the conference playoff picture.
Lose, and they might just be sellers at the trade deadline trying to position themselves for a better year in 2021. One week to save the season, and to perhaps determine the arc of a post-Tom Brady franchise. (LW: 20)
23rd - Mark Maske (Washington Post): It’s impossible to say whether Tom Brady or Bill Belichick was more responsible for the Patriots’ success during their dynastic run together. But it certainly can be said that Brady is faring better in Tampa without Belichick right now than Belichick is doing in New England without Brady. (LW: 18)
23rd - Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News): The Patriots in the bottom 10 of the NFL without Brady? Cue up the tank for Trevor Lawrence conspiracy theories here. Bill Belichick the coach is still doing the best job he can, but he’s been let down big-time by Bill Belichick the general manager with this limited offensive talent and shaky QB situation. (LW: 21)
AVG. RANK: 19.3 [last week: 14.8]