Breathe people. It’s okay to enjoy the win. Maybe laugh a little at the ‘Bad News Bears’ moments - it’s a lot healthier than screaming profanities for three hours, grinding your teeth at night or drinking every time a runner coughs up the ball. Give in and learn to love this new-era roster, growing into itself on still-wobbly legs.
We’ve already learned a team gets no points for moral victories after a loss. But don’t forget that points aren’t taken away after an ugly win either - even if it had to come from behind in the last minute against a bad team. It’s going to be a step forward, shuffle back kind of year so best to embrace the season like it is. One game at a time.
The experts can’t make sense of it either. Danny Kelly dropped them six points this week. After a win. Nate Davis moved them down five points. Dalton Miller booted them four rungs down the ladder. Mark Maske hauled them up four points... You get the picture. The Ringer’s “Muddled Middle” category sums it up about right.
Next on the Texas two-step dance card: It’s goodbye Houston, hello Dallas. The Cowboys are 4-1 and looking strong in advance of their trip to Foxborough. Gillette Stadium’s home-field advantage hasn’t quite materialized... yet. Here’s hoping we’re singing a different tune come Sunday. Patriots stay competitive in this one.
Around the AFC East:
New York Jets (1-4) - Bye
16th - Mark Maske (Washington Post): The Patriots were pushed to the limit by the lowly Texans. That’s more than a little bit ominous. But remember, the Patriots were playing without four usual starters on their offensive line. At least they escaped with the win. It’s not yet time to give up on the possibility that Coach Bill Belichick will get this team back into the playoff-contending mix. [+4]
16th - Consensus (Bleacher Report): In the early going Sunday against the Houston Texans, the New England Patriots appeared to be experiencing quite the hangover from last week’s narrow loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The offense struggled to move the ball, and opposing rookie quarterback Davis Mills carved up the defense. Early in the third quarter, the Texans led 22-9. That the Pats were able to storm back with 16 unanswered points and escape Houston with a three-point win speaks well to New England’s resilience. That New England was ever in that position to begin with speaks to the issues the team has, especially on the defensive side of the ball after allowing Mills to throw for 312 yards. Bill Belichick had better get to work on those defensive deficiencies quickly. If Mills can light that secondary up for 312 yards, Dak Prescott and the Cowboys (whom the Patriots host in Week 6) will probably throw for 512. [+1]
17th - Mike Florio (ProFootballTalk): The Pats are staring at 0-4 at home, when the Cowboys visit on Sunday. [+2]
17th - Frank Schwab (Yahoo! Sports): I trust Bill Belichick to bring his team along as the season goes on. But for a team that spent a record amount of money in free agency, it doesn’t look a lot better. The two wins are against terrible teams (Jets and Texans), and the Patriots needed a lot of breaks to barely beat Houston. Things can change, but it’s hard to see how a team that spent a ton to turn things around is a playoff team. [+2]
18th - Nick Wojton (TouchdownWire): There seemed to be a bit of a post-Tom Brady reunion hangover for the Patriots in Houston. Credit to the Texans for the scare, but extra credit to the Patriots for coming back, 25-22. Rookie QB Mac Jones doesn’t do much that’s sexy, but he gets the job done. Such wins are good early-career building blocks for him. [+2]
19th - NFL Nation (ESPN): Most improved player: WR Jakobi Meyers. How they’ve improved: Meyers has been targeted a team-high 47 times and has totaled 31 receptions for 302 yards. While he had one regrettable drop in Sunday’s win over the Texans in which he was wide open, Meyers’ leap forward is reflected in that through the first five games of last season, he had just one catch for seven yards. The third-year receiver is still looking for his first touchdown reception, though. [+1]
20th - Karen Guregian (Boston Herald): Not the best look when the secondary gets lit up by a rookie quarterback days after trading Stephon Gilmore. Worse? Dak Prescott and the Cowboys are on deck.
21st - Albert Breer (SI): The Patriots roster simply isn’t all that, and the reworked front-office needs another draft class to get it back up to the old standard. The silver lining is that should allow New England to push Mac Jones as the year goes on. [-3]
21st - Pete Prisco (CBS Sports): They didn’t look good against the Texans, but they found a way to win at Houston. Mac Jones made the plays when they were needed. Now they get a tough one against Dallas. [-2]
22nd - Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News): The Patriots had a bit of a Brady hangover in Houston defensively but rookie Mac Jones continued to inspire the offense with good second-half play. They two-step into a next-level challenge next week against that other team from Texas, the Cowboys. [nc]
22nd - Dan Hanzus (NFL.com): Generally speaking, a scenario that combines a rookie QB making his fifth start and an offensive line missing four starters is, well, not ideal. It’s the stuff blowout losses are made of, and perhaps that would have been the Patriots’ fate had they not been playing the hapless Texans on Sunday. But perhaps not, considering Mac Jones is showing us on a weekly basis that he’s not your typical rookie QB. Jones engineered a pair of fourth-quarter scoring marches on Sunday, including his first classified as a game-winning drive, in a 25-22 win. Jones isn’t as flashy as the other rookie QBs, but on balance, he’s been the most impressive. [nc]
23rd - Ryan Dunleavy (NY Post). [-1]
23rd - Harris Ahmadzai, Dylan Fraychineaud (New Arena): It was looking grim for the Patriots early on. Davis Mills was locked in, and the Patriots’ once-vaunted defense had no answers. In the second half, New England began to settle in on both sides of the ball. After Mills connected on his third touchdown of the day in the opening minutes of the third quarter, the Patriots outscored the Texans 16-0 over the final 28 minutes of the game. TE Hunter Henry caught a touchdown pass for the second-straight week as the Pats utilized a conservative offense on the way to the win. New England will take 25 points from its offense any week, but it’s going to be difficult to hold their next opponent, the high-powered Cowboys, to just 22 points. [-2]
23rd - Danny Kelly (The Ringer): The Muddled Middle category. [-6]
23rd - Dalton Miller (ProFootballNetwork): Tier 4: Bad football teams. It would take a lot for any of these teams to compete for a playoff spot. The Patriots looked bad today, but they fought their way back and beat a team that they should defeat on most Sundays. The offense did a good job moving the chains on third down, but they struggled in the red zone and in goal-to-go situations.
New England feels painfully average. Their defense ranks just outside the top 10 in efficiency, but their offense is still a massive struggle. With most of the Patriots’ offensive line injured and a lack of offensive weapons, things aren’t easy for rookie Mac Jones, who is already limited as an athlete. [-4]
26th - Nate Davis (USA Today): They were wholly unimpressive Sunday against downtrodden Houston, a performance at least partially explained by New England missing 80% of its starting offensive line. But that doesn’t explain Texans rookie QB Davis Mills carving up Belichick’s defense. [-5]
AVG RANK: 20.4 [-0.6]