Spread the word around.
The boys are back in town.
Thursday night they’ll be dressed to kill
Down at Matty’s bar and grill
The drink will flow and blood will spill
If the boys want to fight, you’d better let them... [apologies to Thin Lizzy]
How ‘bout those Patriots?!? How ‘bout that quarterback?!? If you’ve noticed, all the Rex Ryan’s out there deriding Mac Jones for his peashooter of an arm, have been furiously back-stepping their premature takes on the rookie QB since Sunday. It’s been amusing to watch. Most of that group are firmly on the bandwagon now, and it will be heading down to Atlanta for a never-convenient Thursday night matchup with the Falcons.
The NFL has been an anything goes kind of season so far, so I am not looking past the Falcons, and presume the Patriots aren’t either. On a regular Sunday I’d flat-out call this an easy win for New England, but for any team managing injuries and sore bodies, a game on only 4 days rest is always the wild card. Atlanta was on the receiving end of a 43-3 thrashing by the Cowboys in Week 10, while the Pats were on the giving end of a similar thrashing of the Browns. Whether the Patriots can stay focused and not let up, plus how extra motivated the Falcons will be to atone for the beatdown, may both be factors Thursday night.
We’ve seen the Patriots defense improve after the first quarter of the season to the point now where they’ve gone from good to great. The offense finally got its bonafide breakout game this past week. The team’s performance was so good, it’s hard not to get giddy over how far this team can go. Upcoming games against the Bills (twice) and Titans will be a more accurate measuring stick than the Browns. The ranking experts have noticed too, moving the Pats up into the top 10.
I’m just happy to see Trent Brown back in action, the turnover differential improving and the early-season sloppiness on the retreat. Onward and upward. Belichick will keep his players focused. Pats win this game decisively.
Around the AFC East:
Cincinnati Bengals (5-4) at Los Vegas Raiders (5-4)
Denver Broncos (5-5) - Bye
6th - Mark Maske (Washington Post): It should surprise absolutely no one if Patriots Coach Bill Belichick gets this team, in Year 2 post-Brady, to make a run deep into the AFC playoffs. The Patriots are getting better as the season progresses. Rookie QB Mac Jones can flat-out play and knows exactly what’s being asked of him by Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. The defense is playing well. That was a total demolishing of the Browns on Sunday in Foxborough, Mass. [+3]
6th - Ryan Dunleavy (NY Post): Jones threw three touchdown passes, including two to Hunter Henry, in a 45-7 rout of the Browns. Henry has seven touchdown catches in the last seven games. Can anyone think of the last great quarterback-tight end duo to play in New England? [+4]
8th - Dan Hanzus (NFL.com): It almost feels like the good times never left Gillette Stadium — they just took a one-year sabbatical in 2020 like the rest of us. On Sunday, the Pats rolled over the Browns for their fourth consecutive victory in a 3.5-hour party at Foxborough. Two days earlier, Bill Belichick gushed about Josh McDaniels, telling reporters he didn’t believe the offensive coordinator “has any weaknesses as a coach.” Then McDaniels dialed up a game plan against Cleveland that produced six touchdowns in eight possessions when starter Mac Jones was on the field. Jones was back in a groove in what has been the most impressive season of any rookie QB by a wide margin. If he continues to mature, there’s no limit how far the Pats can go in a wide-open AFC. [+3]
8th - Nate Davis (USA Today): Not only have they won four in a row to vault themselves back into the thick of the AFC playoff race, the average margin of victory during this hot streak has been 25 points. Next up? The Falcons, who are coming off that 40-point beatdown. [+1]
8th - Mike Florio (ProFootballTalk): With the “good” teams compressed this year, coaching will make a real difference. [+2]
8th - Danny Kelly (The Ringer): Top of ‘The Contenders’ category. [+5]
9th - Nick Wojton (TouchdownWire): The Titans might be the NFL’s hottest team record wise… but via the eye test, the Patriots are in that discussion. The Browns have had ups and downs, but no one saw a rout coming like it did. Rookie QB Mac Jones is starting to play his part more and more as New England’s signal caller had three touchdown passes next to a complementary run game. [+1]
9th - Pete Prisco (CBS Sports): This team is playing outstanding football on both sides of the ball. This might be Bill Belichick’s best coaching job. [+3]
9th - Russell S. Baxter (Fansided): The Patriots took a three-game winning streak into their encounter with the visiting Browns. Bill Belichick’s team owned a 1-4 home record entering this contest. Rookie quarterback Mac Jones continued his outstanding play, hitting on 19-of-23 throws for 198 yards and three scores. With Damien Harris out, rookie Rhamondre Stevenson wound up with 20 carries for 100 yards and two touchdown. And the Pats have as many wins as the Bills. [+6]
9th - Dalton Miller (ProFootballNetwork): The Patriots must read what I write about them — that’s a joke, they don’t care — because their offensive firepower was on full display against a talented Browns defense. Mac Jones was tired of hearing folks swoon over Justin Fields the past two weeks. He wanted his moment back, and he took it by force.
The defense showed up, too. Cleveland could only muster 3.1 net yards per play early into the fourth quarter. Both Browns QBs were under siege in the game, which is unfortunate given they just spent record money on their two guards. New England has found something in running back Rhamondre Stevenson, and this team is firing on all eight cylinders as of late. They’ve won four games in a row and have looked dominant against everyone in their last six games — aside from their loss to Dallas. [+6]
10th - NFL Nation (ESPN): Most important remaining games: Dec. 6 at Bills and Dec. 26 vs. Bills. The Patriots are surging, and if things continue in this direction, their two December games against the AFC East-leading Bills will go a long way toward determining the division championship. The Dec. 6 game is on a Monday night in Orchard Park, New York, and then the teams will meet up in Foxborough, Massachusetts, three weeks later. [+2]
10th - Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News): The Patriots have their formula down pat with Mac Jones under Bill Belichick. Keep running the ball at a high level, with whoever’s available, open up a comfortable passing game for Jones and set up the defense to do whatever it wants. They’re quickly going from fringe AFC wild-card contenders to strong playoff threat. [+6]
10th - Karen Guregian (Boston Herald): Physical running game? Check. Efficient passing game? Check. Opportunistic defense? Check. Capable quarterback? Check. Just cross off all the boxes, here come the Patriots. [+2]
10th - Frank Schwab (Yahoo! Sports): Mac Jones had a three-interception game in Week 3, and he has a 103 passer rating in the seven games since. Dak Prescott holds the record for a rookie passer rating at 104.9. The Patriots have won four in a row and look really good. Remember, quarterbacks always win awards if there’s even a slight question. Ja’Marr Chase’s hold on the favorite spot for offensive rookie of the year might not last much longer, and there’s not much he can do about it. [nc]
10th - Jenny Vrentas (SI): An obnoxious Boston fan I work with said that my picking the Patriots to win the division gave him hope during the Patriots’ 1-3 start. (Glad to be able to finally offer some hope to forlorn Boston fans.) Mac Jones had his best game et in a decisive win against the Browns, and the rebuilt units on both sides of the ball have come together quickly since the bumpy first month of the season. [+1]
10th - Harris Ahmadzai, Dylan Fraychineaud (New Arena): Here come Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots. The Pats are streaking as winners of four in a row. All four wins have come in impressive fashion. New England beat down the Jets in a 54-13 rout, toppled the Chargers, stymied the Panthers, and most recently ran the Browns off the field. Following a Week 1 loss to the Dolphins, the Patriots have only lost to teams currently in the NFC Playoff Picture (Saints, Buccaneers, Cowboys). The defense has been excellent in recent weeks, and could have another field day against Matt Ryan and the Falcons on Thursday. [+6]
10th - Consensus (Bleacher Report): Mac Jones wasn’t the first quarterback selected in the 2021 NFL draft. Or the second. Or the third. But 10 weeks into the regular season, there’s little question that the former Alabama standout has had the most success of any first-year quarterback so far. Jones wasn’t the only reason the New England Patriots blasted the Cleveland Browns on Sunday at Gillette Stadium. Or even the biggest reason. But in completing 19 of 23 passes for 198 yards and three touchdowns without an interception, Jones played the same sort of solid, efficient game that he has more weeks than not this season.
After a slow start to the season, Jones and the Patriots have peeled off four straight victories (and five wins in six games) to thrust themselves into the AFC wild-card conversation. In fact, with both matchups against the AFC East-leading Buffalo Bills still to be played, the Pats could still threaten for a division title. As it turns out, apparently Bill Belichick is pretty good at the whole “coaching football” thing. [+1]
AVG RANK: 8.8 [+3.1]