Oh, the weather outside was frightful, but the ire is so delightful...
The Bills thought the Pats went low ‘cuz they didn’t throw, woudn’t throw, didn’t throw.
When they finally said good-night, and the Pats headed home from the storm,
The top seed in the AFC, all the way home kept them warm....
Another bad attempt at song rewriting, but I can’t help it. I’ve been walking around with a Merry Christmas feeling in my heart and a ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ in my step ever since Monday night. Just like the Pats-Rams so-called ‘boring’ Super Bowl LIII, I knew as the game progressed that neither the media nor general NFL fan base would enjoy this Patriots game plan vs. the Bills. Personally I could have lived with a little more scoring cushion, but in hindsight I loved it. The team imposed its dominance on the road with one phase tied behind its back. Glorious.
The experts acknowledge the Patriots are not only back to being relevant, but they’re back to being good. From a dicey 2-4 start to peeling off seven straight wins is not for the faint of heart. Belichick has to love this mentally tough group of players he has brought together. No receivers complaining about their stats or lack of touches. All buying in to the team-centric ‘win-first, stats-last’ mantra. What’s not to love?
Up next is a much-needed bye week to let everyone rest, heal up and take a breath. Fans included. Along with many in Pats Nation, I will be a Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan this Sunday vs. the Bills. Nice to be able to savor the victory and enjoy the win streak a little longer without having to move on. Here’s hoping for another Pats win without them even taking the field. As always...
Around the AFC East:
New England Patriots (9-4) Bye
Miami Dolphins (6-7) Bye
Indianapolis Colts (7-6) Bye
2nd - Mike Florio (ProFootballTalk): Whatever it takes. Wherever it happens. Whoever is available. Whichever way the wind is blowing. [nc]
3rd - Mark Maske (Washington Post): Coach Bill Belichick is doing whatever it takes. In the high winds Monday night at Buffalo, that meant 46 rushing attempts and three passes by rookie QB Mac Jones. It paid off for the Patriots’ seventh straight victory. They’re the No. 1 seed in the AFC and, with their way their defense is playing, there’s no reason to believe they can’t get back to a Super Bowl, minus Tom Brady. [nc]
3rd - Ryan Dunleavy (NY Post): Belichick joined George Halas as the second coach ever with 19 road wins against a single opponent by winning in Buffalo. The Patriots ran 46 times for 222 yards and threw three times for 19 yards. That’s the fewest passes attempted by any team in a game since 1974. Their 7-1 record against the AFC will be critical for tiebreakers. [+1]
3rd - Russell S. Baxter (Fansided): Bill Belichick’s club took a six-game winning streak into their Monday night showdown with the Bills. It’s been a pretty amazing turnaround after a 2-4 start. And the New England’s eight wins tops their total from 2020 when the club finished 7-9. Quarterback Mac Jones has settled in nicely and is in the conversation for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. The ball-hawking Patriots have 25 takeaways in 12 games, including an impressive 19 interceptions. [nc]
3rd - Consensus (Bleacher Report): It’s been a little while since we saw an NFL team win a game in which it attempted three passes. In fact, our oldest analyst was two years old at the time. Davenport asked that we not say who that analyst is. With snow falling and a ferocious wind whipping through the stadium in Buffalo, the Patriots rocked it like it was 1974 in Monday’s win over the Bills. New England ran the ball a staggering 46 times for 222 yards, with Damien Harris peeling off a career-long 64-yarder in the first quarter for the team’s only touchdown of the game. New England now heads into the bye on a seven-game win streak and as the No. 1 seed in the AFC, and our resident geezer thinks Darth Hoodie could be headed toward another Coach of the Year award. [nc]
4th - NFL Nation (ESPN): Player who must step up: TE Jonnu Smith. Entering Monday night’s game against the Bills, the big-money free-agent signing had totaled 25 catches for 259 yards and one touchdown. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels has referred to this as a foundational year for Smith and all newcomers. At the same time, when the team signed Smith to a four-year, $50 million contract in free agency — with $31.25 million guaranteed — it created a level of expectation that Smith is still striving to reach. [+1]
4th - Nate Davis (USA Today): With three throws in victory Monday night, rookie QB Mac Jones became the ultimate game manager! Enjoy a week at the beach, Mac, and a nice domed stadium (Indianapolis) after your break. [nc]
4th - Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News): The Patriots are the best team in the top-heavy AFC thanks to their recent defensive-fueled strong body of work with the best coach in the game, Bill Belichick. They flexed even more by beating the Bills in Buffalo on Monday night. [nc]
4th - Karen Guregian (Boston Herald): The Patriots are clearly in the Bills’ head. Sean McDermott & Co. continue to be tormented by Bill Belichick. And sitting atop the AFC, they’re bound to be in plenty of other heads, as well. [+5]
4th - Darren Hartwell (NBC Sports Boston): Mac Jones attempted just three (!) passes Monday night in windy Buffalo, as the Patriots’ dominant ground game carried the day to keep New England’s winning streak rolling into its bye. This team hasn’t lost since Oct. 17. [+2]
4th - Frank Schwab (Yahoo! Sports): The Patriots went from 1:22 left in the first quarter to 6:51 left in the fourth quarter without attempting a pass. It was the fourth time since 1970, and the first time since 1978, a team ran the ball on 90 percent of its offensive plays according to ESPN. And they won. It was a remarkable game plan and one that you have to imagine Bill Belichick loved. [+5]
4th - Danny Kelly (The Ringer): ‘The Top Shelf’ category. The Patriots won a wild, windy matchup with the Bills on Monday Night Football to move into the no. 1 seed position in the AFC, while the Chiefs and Cowboys both took care of business to round out the top six of my elite-tier group. [nc]
4th - Dan Hanzus (NFL.com): The man’s rare sideline smile told the story: This was the kind of night that keeps Bill Belichick in the game. With frigid cold and gusting winds, Belichick took the ball out of his quarterback’s hands (three pass attempts for Mac Jones) and won with a pounding run attack and a defense that bent but did not break. The 14-10 victory over the Bills pushed the Pats’ winning streak to seven games and gave them sole possession of the No. 1 seed in the AFC with five weeks in the regular season. Tom Brady might be gone, but the Pats’ continued ability to win contests like this goes right back to the legend in the hoodie on the sideline. [+1]
4th - Pete Prisco (CBS Sports): Don’t look now, but they are the top seed in the AFC. What a great coaching job this year by Bill Belichick. [nc]
4th - Dalton Miller (ProFootballNetwork): No team has played better over the past month, but I still wonder about the Patriots’ ceiling. They had a particularly difficult matchup on Monday Night Football – they weren’t just facing the Buffalo Bills, but the weather as well. I wondered how the Patriots’ passing attack would look with winds reaching 50 mph. It turns out, they didn’t have much intent on finding out. Through three quarters, Mac Jones had only thrown 1 pass, which he made look nearly impossible. I went into the game believing we probably wouldn’t learn much, and the weather made sure of that. [nc]
5th - Nick Wojton (TouchdownWire): The Patriots essentially gave the Bills their playbook and said we are going to run it every play. They still won. New England took a big step toward locking up the AFC East, but the conference is far from settled. [nc]
5th - Harris Ahmadzai, Dylan Fraychineaud (New Arena): The Patriots are good again. In other news, time is a flat circle. The more things change, the more they stay the same. After a down year in 2020, the Pats are back with a vengeance in ’21. New England has now won six in a row, capped with a dominating victory over the previous No. 1 seed in the AFC — the Tennessee Titans. Sure, the Titans were down a handful of notable starters, but the Patriots have been ascending for weeks now. They haven’t played a close game in a month, and now have all the confidence in the world leading up to a marquee matchup versus the Buffalo Bills on Monday. [+1]
5th - Greg Bishop (SI): Has a 14–10 victory ever felt more dominant? Watch the Patriots in winds that gusted up to 55 miles an hour, as Buffalo kept it close, and as rising quarterback Mac Jones threw only three passes—including a single attempt in the first half—and, still, the outcome of an important AFC contest never seemed in doubt. Just as Tom Brady proved in winning the Super Bowl last season with—and in—Tampa, the whole Brady-Belichick credit debate was never fair to either, let alone telling in regard to their spectacular, two-decade run. The answer, all along, was both of them, as evidenced, once again, by the twist Belichick put on his team’s seventh-straight win, not to mention his brilliant off-season that repositioned the Patriots. We could argue whether the Rams deserve this slot more, or whether the Chiefs do. But it would be foolish—now, or at any point in the near future—to doubt what Belichick has up his, well, um, the shoulder parts of his cut-off sweatshirts. With Jones playing capably, the defense playing better and a bye week ahead, here comes New England, in fast pursuit of what would be an all-time Super Bowl match-up. Do we even need to say who would play in that scenario? It’s not time to lock it in yet, but it sure seems like one of the more likely possibilities. [nc]
AVG RANK: 3.8 [+0.3]