Thanksgiving is not until Thursday, but last Sunday the Patriots pushed their chairs away from the table a little early and said, “Enough!” “We’re done!”
Those of us watching from home however, were left hungry. It’s fairly obvious this isn’t a Super Bowl-caliber team, but some of us had visions of winning a good chunk of the remaining games and seeing the team at least reach for the lower playoff bar this season. But even the most optimistic fan can admit that ain’t happening.
The patriots had a full plate for twenty years, heaped with more trophies and longer seasons than any other NFL team. The gravy train had to end at some point and this year is their turkey.
While last week’s loss in Houston was disappointing, I’m not down on the Pats by any stretch. Chalk it up to this being a weird year all around but I’m finding plenty of reasons to keep watching - and without the usual pressure and worrying about the competition for that playoff bye. So grab a fresh plate and stick around for the rest of the season.
This week the Arizona Cardinals come to Foxborough. QB Kyler Murray has no idea if he’ll face the defense that stopped Lamar Jackson or the sieve that allowed Deshaun Watson a career-high day. I’m leaning towards the former. I’m picking the Pats to win because there’s a chance they could pull it off. Besides, I’ll take optimism over indigestion every time.
Around the AFC East:
17th - Pete Prisco (CBS Sports): They just don’t have the players to win consistently. The defense was awful against the Texans, and now they get to deal with Kyler Murray.
18th - NFL Nation (ESPN): What they’re thankful for: RB James White’s presence. The outpouring of support for White on Sept. 20, when he was preparing to play a prime-time game against the Seahawks before learning that his father was killed in a car accident, speaks to how revered he is across the NFL. His presence, and the class and leadership he exudes on a daily basis, makes the Patriots better on and off the field. [LW: 18]
18th - Staff (AP Pro32). [LW: 17]
18th - Dan Hanzus (NFL.com): The Patriots have not missed the postseason since 2008, but that streak is in serious peril after Sunday’s disappointing 27-20 loss to the Texans. At 4-6, the Patriots have put themselves in a position where they might have to win out to extend their season into January. Problem is, there’s not enough talent on this roster to imagine the Pats getting nuclear hot after Thanksgiving. The Texans entered Sunday as football’s worst run defense, but New England curiously went away from the running game and lead back Damien Harris after a hot start. The Patriots will need to re-establish their ball-control game with Kyler Murray up next. [LW: 17]
18th - Peter Botte (NY Post). [LW: 18]
18th - Consensus (Bleacher Report): The New England Patriots are done. Granted, there’s an outside chance the Patriots could catch the Buffalo Bills in the AFC East or earn a wild-card spot. But losing in Week 11 to a two-win Texans team made such a feat seem about as likely as winning the Powerball—twice.
It was an ugly defeat that exposed all that’s wrong with the Pats. The inability to move the ball through the air with consistency. The lack of athleticism on defense. It was a loss that led Gagnon to say aloud what most are thinking—the dynasty in New England is dead.
“It’s probably over now unless they run the table,” he said, “which is extremely unlikely considering the state of the roster. This is a mediocre team. As scary as it feels, we’re allowed to admit that now.”
The team’s remaining schedule doesn’t do the Patriots any favors. Next week’s home date with the Arizona Cardinals is the first of four matchups against teams with winning records over the season’s last six games.
Given that, just going 8-8 in 2020 may not be that much more likely than a postseason run. [LW: 16]
19th - Mark Maske (Washington Post): So much for the Patriots putting their season back together. The loss in Houston probably extinguishes any hope of the Patriots going on a run to make the AFC playoffs. [LW:17]
19th - Mike Florio (ProFootballTalk): It was fun while it lasted. [LW: 17]
20th - Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News): The Patriots had their opportunity to shoot back into the AFC wild-card race with several of the teams ahead of them losing. Unfortunately, Deshaun Watson and the Texans had their number for a second consecutive season. [LW: 17]
20th - Nate Davis (USA Today): Time was, running the ball effectively and playing solid defense equated to contending status. And yet this is the worst Patriots team in 20 years. [LW: 16]
20th - Gary Gramling (SI): For the second straight year they were outclassed in Houston; even with no Laremy Tunsil in the lineup for the Texans, New England didn’t get anywhere near Deshaun Watson. Envisioning Cam Newton complemented by the Patriots’ ‘19 defense is a good thought exercise—rebuilding the defensive front seven and adding more receiving weapons are probably more pressing short-term needs than QB in Foxboro. [LW: 16]
21st - Justin Leger (NBC Sports Boston): The Patriots couldn’t duplicate last week’s impressive victory over the Ravens as they suffered a horrible loss to the Texans on Sunday, 27-20. New England’s playoff hopes appear to be dashed as they prepare for a tough matchup vs. the Cardinals. [LW: 17]
21st - Frank Schwab (Yahoo! Sports): If there was any hope for the Patriots making things interesting this season, they had to beat a 2-7 Texans team on Sunday. Now that the season is pretty much done, what happens next with Cam Newton is interesting. Do the Patriots take a look at Jarrett Stidham? Newton is on just a one-year deal. [LW: 17]
21st - Danny Kelly (The Ringer): The muddled middle. [LW: 18]
24th - Mark Schofield (TouchdownWire): Did you enjoy the past few days, New England Patriots fans? That little sliver of hope that crept back into your hearts over the past week in the wake of last Sunday’s upset over the Baltimore Ravens? Believe me, as a fellow Patriots fan I felt it too. That believe that maybe, just maybe, Bill Belichick was going to do it again. That feeling is probably gone today, and perhaps it should be. Call it a letdown, call it a trap game, but whatever you do, you cannot call it a win. The Patriots went down to Houston, chased Deshaun Watson all over the field, and came out on the wrong end of a 27-20 defeat. A last-second Hail Mary came up short, and the Patriots now have to wonder what could have been as they continue to look up at the Buffalo Bills and the Miami Dolphins in the AFC East. If you are looking for bright spots right now as a New England fan, perhaps this connection from Cam Newton to Damiere Byrd will suffice. The wideout, who turned in his best game of the season, channels his inner Willie Mays on this over-the-shoulder catch for a touchdown. But this week the majority of the struggles were on the defensive side of the football. Watson continued his masterful play of late, completing 28 of 37 passes for 344 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Watson also had 36 yards and a touchdown on six carries. Brandin Cooks, Jordan Akins and Will Fuller V all had over 80 receiving yards. New England simply did not have an answer for Watson and the Houston passing game this afternoon. The result? Likely a season-ender. [LW: 17]
AVG. RANK: 19.5 [last week: 17.0]