Bill Belichick loves this team. They fight, they scrap, they support each other, and (cover your taunting ears Cassius Marsh) they have fun. Can’t think of much he loves more about football than building a roster and molding them into mentally tough players. When asked about Mac Jones pulling the leg of Panthers’ DE Brian Burns, Belichick praised the quarterback for his ‘competitive spirit.’ I believe he feels that for the rest of his team as well. They are confident they can win games, and it’s hard to not be confident right along with them.
Many of the the Foxborough faithful have been seeing the diamond in the rough that is this year’s Patriots team early on and Belichick is right there with you. If the players continue to take coaching, buy into the game plans and clean up the sloppiness under their control, they certainly have the potential to keep stacking up wins one game at a time.
New England Is back on the experts’ relevancy radar again too. With phrases such as “Watch out” “don’t look now” “quietly ascending” “picking up steam” ...etc, it’s clear this team isn’t acting like an organization in complete rebuilding mode — even though they are. The Pats are all in it to win it and, at least for now, have a seat at the playoff table. Next up is a challenging stretch. Home vs. Cleveland, at Atlanta, home vs. Tennessee and at Buffalo. One theme of 2021 has been seeing top teams losing to their bottom tier opponents (cough, Bills), so no easy “tomato cans” or “gimmies” this year for anyone. New England needs this game on Sunday and I believe they will get what they need against a much improved Browns team, another win.
Around the AFC East:
Cincinnati Bengals (5-4) - Bye
Houston Texans (1-8) - Bye
9th - Nate Davis (USA Today): Elsewhere in the AFC East, New England has averaged 147 rushing yards during its three-game winning streak while enjoying a +5 turnover differential. The Pats obviously want that divisional throne back. [nc]
9th - Mark Maske (Washington Post): Watch out. Here come the Patriots. Those who gave up on Coach Bill Belichick and this team early in the season might want to rethink things. The Patriots have won three straight and four of five. They’re only a half-game behind the supposedly mighty Bills in the AFC East. The leg-tugging incident Sunday by rookie QB Mac Jones was unbecoming. But putting that aside, Jones is good enough for the Patriots — with that defense — to make them an interesting team by playoff time. [+4]
10th - Nick Wojton (TouchdownWire): Highlighting the Pats’ defensive effort against Darnold & the Panthers was JC Jackson’s 88-yard pick-six interception in the 24-6 win. Not only was Darnold shutdown, the return of RB Christian McCaffrey soured as he was held to 52 yards on the ground and four catches by New England’s defense. [+3]
10th - Frank Schwab (Yahoo! Sports): Matt Judon might be the NFL’s defensive player of the year. He has nine sacks, with at least one sack in six of New England’s nine games. He has been a great, versatile piece for the Patriots defense. He might end up being the best signing of the 2021 offseason. [+3]
10th - Mike Florio (ProFootballTalk): This is the one team no one in the AFC will want to see in the postseason. [+3]
10th - Ryan Dunleavy (NY Post): Don’t look now, but the Patriots have won four of their last five games, and they played the Buccaneers and Cowboys tough in their most recent losses. Hunter Henry and Matthew Judon have been worth the big bucks in free agency, and Rhamondre Stevenson forms an improving rookie duo with Mac Jones. [+4]
11th - MMQB Staff (SI): Quietly ascending, the Patriots have slow played MacJones’s development and the payoff has been a gradual improvement alongside a talented well-coached defense. If there is any club poised to surprise the masses over the second half, why not one of the greatest coaches n NFL history ared with a system quarterback and a handful of talented component pieces? [+5]
11th - Dan Hanzus (NFL.com): If Bill Belichick could face off against Sam Darnold every week, the Patriots would never lose a game. The coach continued his mastery over the former first-round pick, who threw three interceptions without a touchdown drive in New England’s 24-6 win over the Panthers in Charlotte. It’s the third straight win for the Pats, who are within a half-game of the Bills in a suddenly tight AFC East race. Mac Jones was better than he was Week 8 in Los Angeles, but the Pats won because of their opportunistic defense — J.C. Jackson had two INTs, including the game-icing pick-six — and a run game that rolled up 151 yards and a touchdown. A Week 10 showdown with the Browns could have huge playoff ramifications. [+4]
11th - Consensus (Bleacher Report): Don’t look now, but the New England Patriots might actually be good. Mind you, the Patriots didn’t exactly light up the scoreboard Sunday in Charlotte. Rookie quarterback Mac Jones threw for just 139 yards while turning it over twice, and the Pats averaged less than four yards a carry. But even at 3.9 yards a pop, the yardage piles up when you run the ball 39 times. That ground game helped keep Carolina’s offense off the field. And when the Panthers did get out there, they didn’t do much. Carolina gained just 240 total yards and notched only 13 first downs while committing three turnovers (including a pick-six).
The win was New England’s third in a row, and coupled with Buffalo’s stunning loss in Jacksonville, the Pats are now just one game back of the Bills with two head-to-head meetings between the two later this season.Even if the AFC East does go to the Bills, New England’s combination of a strong ground game and stout defense should keep it in the thick of the wild-card hunt. [+4]
12th - Pete Prisco (CBS Sports): Don’t look now, but they’ve won three straight games to get back into the division race. Now they face a tough game at home against the Browns. [+2]
12th - NFL Nation (ESPN): Bold second-half prediction: QB Mac Jones will have 25 touchdown passes. Jones has 10 TD passes through nine games, so he’ll need to pick up the pace in the final eight games. That basically means he will need to average two per game to hit the mark. Is that a leap of faith? Perhaps, especially when considering how effective the running game has been close to the goal line. But Jones seems to have found a go-to target in Hunter Henry — five TDs in last six games — and the passing game should continue to grow as the season progresses. [+1]
12th - Karen Guregian (Boston Herald): Think the Bills are hearing footsteps? Three straight wins have the Pats breathing down their necks. [+3]
13th - Danny Kelly (The Ringer): ‘The Contenders category. The Patriots, meanwhile, seem content to continue flying under the radar, ready to step up when other teams start to crumble. New England isn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but this team has what few other squads in the conference boast: balance in all three phases. And we saw that on Sunday when the Pats dispatched the Panthers, 24-6. ... The Patriots’ most obvious vulnerability is the fact they’re helmed by a rookie starting quarterback, Mac Jones, who’s been steady and poised (and the most effective of all the rookie quarterbacks) in his game-manager role―but clearly still learning on the job. ... More.
15th - Russell S. Baxter (Fansided): For the first time this season, Bill Belichick’s club found itself above the .500 mark thanks to a win in which the team did not allow a touchdown. The Patriots limited Carolina to 240 total yards and a pair of field goals. And cornerback J.C. Jackson had two of the team’s three interceptions of Sam Darnold, returning one of those thefts 88 yards for a TD. And with the Bills’ surprising loss at Jacksonville, New England and Buffalo both now have five wins. [nc]
15th - Dalton Miller (ProFootballNetwork): The Patriots still face the Browns, Titans, Bills (twice), and Colts in the 2021 season, but this 5-4 team somehow feels like an AFC playoff contender. New England doesn’t feature a new-school passing attack. They want to run the ball, control it, pick up first downs, and play defense.
Who am I to judge? It’s working right now. With the No. 11 defense and No. 20 offense (per expected points added per play), it seems peculiar the Patriots have found so much success in the win column. But when you remember who’s coaching them, it makes sense. After all, this team won seven games in 2020 despite half their defense (hyperbole) opting out and no passing attack to speak of. Never count out a Bill Belichick-coached team. [+1]
16th - Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News): The Patriots have gone from written off to alive and well in the AFC playoff hunt. The running game and defense keep growing in combined confidence, and with, is lifting Mac Jones a little more every week. [-1]
16th - Harris Ahmadzai, Dylan Fraychineaud (New Arena): New England is picking up steam as winners of three in a row. Two weeks ago, the Patriots finally showed they could beat a strong team by picking up a win over the Chargers in Los Angeles. This past Sunday, the Pats traveled to Carolina and stifled the Panthers’ offense. New England picked off Sam Darnold three times and forced two fumbles on the day. Up 14-6 with a little more than six minutes remaining in the third quarter, J.C. Jackson returned an interception 88 yards to the house to put the game out of reach. [nc]
AVG RANK: 11.9 [+2.1]