Judgments XII: Who is the best team in AFC now? It could be a wave of patriots
Two weeks ago, the best team in the AFC was obvious. It was Tennessee. But now? Not really.
So who is he? Give me the winner of next Monday’s Buffalo-New England game.
The Bills are no surprise. They were a trendy Super Bowl pre-season pick. But New England? No, I never saw that happen. However, now I’m not sure the Patriots aren’t the team to beat in a conference where 12 teams are .500 or better, but only one is on a six-game tear.
It would be the Patriots, who abandoned Tennessee on Sunday.
“They’re playing the most consistent football in the AFC right now,” Hall of Fame coach Tony Dungy said of NBC.
They can run. They play in defense. They don’t make mistakes, but they force them. Their rookie quarterback is one of the most efficient and effective passer in the league. And they’re improving week over week, with New England hammering their last four opponents by a combined score of 130-26.
Cleveland was one of those opponents, and the Browns were a playoff team last year. Tennessee was another, and the Titans have beaten seven playoff teams this year starting in 2020. But it’s not that those two lost; is that they have been erased, 81-20.
I know. Cleveland didn’t have Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, and Baker Mayfield is injured. And Tennessee doesn’t have Derrick Henry and AJ Brown. I do not care. The Patriots suddenly look like the 2001 edition that was quarterback by a freshman starter to quarterback (guess) and defined by a locked defense.
This team finished 11-5 and won the Super Bowl.
This team could too, but let’s not anticipate on our own. The Patriots then play, in order, Buffalo, Indianapolis and Buffalo again. This will tell us what to do with it. So far, all I know is that at 8-4 the Patriots have one more win than all of last year and are somewhere we weren’t expecting without Tom Brady.
At the top of their division and maybe, just maybe, the AFC.
SUNDAY SCHOOL: FIVE THINGS WE LEARNED
1. The Steelers are grilled. OK, so at 5-5-1 they’re running out for nothing. But let’s be honest: their defense is leaking oil, and Ben Roethlisberger is no longer Big Ben. In their last two games – both losses – the Steelers were shredded for 903 yards and 82 pointsâ¦ and that was against the Chargers and Bengals. In their first nine games, no opponent has scored more than 24, with the Steelers allowing an average of 20.5 per start. But now? Now their defense looks like an open window and the playoffs like an unattainable goal.
2. Apparently Aaron Rodgers can handle the pain. That’s what he said after missing training last week with a broken toe. Then he came out and threw two touchdown passes and ran for a third. Against the Rams, nothing less.
3. The Bengals are back. They have just swept Pittsburgh for the first time since 2009 and are getting closer to AFC leader North Baltimore. In five of their last six games, they have scored 30 or more points. So what? So they’ve only done it once in their previous 13 games. âThey really don’t have any weaknesses right now,â said CNB analyst Drew Brees. Careful. These are the Bengals. We said that before this season.
4. Tom Brady owns the Colts. He’s been 9-0 against them since 2010 (including the playoffs) — or since Peyton Manning left.
5. The Vikings are in deep kimchi. They can’t win close games, and now they’ve lost star-back Dalvin Cook. He has a shoulder injury serious enough to have left Sunday’s game against the 49ers on a cart. You know the Vikes are in trouble when, on a fourth and a goal, Kirk Cousins ââlines up behind the guard. But he did. Honest.
THIRD AND 20
1. The more I see Tennessee without Derrick Henry, the more he gets on my MVP ballot.
2. The Rams are a top down team. They have lost three straight, lost another game to frontman AFC West Arizona, and get diminishing returns from Matthew Stafford, with a six pick in three straight games. These guys need a breakâ¦ and they’ll get one. Jacksonville is next.
3. Look at it that way, Jaguar fans. At least Trevor Lawrence threw a touchdown pass. This is something he hasn’t done for the past three weeks.
4. Ja’Marr Chase or Jaylen Waddle?
5. It’s a fourth and a goal against your opponent’s 3, and you lose eight points with nine minutes remaining. What are you doing? If you’re the Minnesota Vikings, go ahead, a move broadcasters enthusiastically endorsed – calling it the only one to make. Except no. A field goal would have narrowed the gap to five, with nine minutes left to produce the winning TD. Instead, the Vikings hit the field goal, Cousins ââmissed the fourth pass and they lost by eight.
6. I don’t know what’s going on with Tampa Bay in January, but I do know this: His defense isn’t at all close to the one that knocked out his opponents in last year’s playoffs.
7. What is so rare that one day in June? An afternoon where the Giants and the Jets each win. It happened on Sunday,
8. Contrary to reports, there is always a field advantage in the NFL. He lives in Green Bay. The Packers have won their last 10 regular season games at Lambeau and 17 of their last 18 there.
9. Tell me again why Matt Rhule was such a good candidate for Carolina. He is 10-18 years old.
ten. That makes Matt Stafford 0-17 against opponents who have entered games with five or more wins out of 0.500. I’m just saying.
11. Cam Newton may be back. But Superman is not. If you make only two more passes to your teammates (5) than your opponent (3), get a 5.8 passer rating, and end up on the bench, you’re Clark Kent.
12. Don’t change short in Miami. After starting 1-7, the Dolphins are on a four-game slate. But here’s what’s better: Their next two opponents: the Jets and Giants, both at home. Meaning 7-7 is very much at stake.
13. So, what drives Miami? Defense is what. In the last four games, the Dolphins have allowed an average of 11.5 points per game, with 16 sacks and 10 takeaways. In other words, this is the defense coach Brian Flores that was envisioned three months ago.
14. I thought Denver’s pass rush was meant to miss Von Miller. Tell that to Justin Herbert.
15. Quick question for Nick Sirianni of Philadelphia: When you have a pass to get a last minute win, why throw it at Jalen Reagor? The guy couldn’t get a cab in midtown Manhattan right now.
16. “And I guess for the week,” NBC Mike Tirico said after Baltimore’s 16-10 loss to Cleveland, “the final tally is Harbaughs 2, Ohio 0”. Tirico lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and, according to Sunday night football partner Cris Collinsworth, waited all weekend to enter this dig.
17. I don’t know what that means, but Tennessee are 1-5 rookie quarterbacks since 2018 … or during the Mike Vrabel days.
18. They have Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey, Leonard Floyd and Von Miller. So why do the Rams flee like the Titanic? They’ve allowed 28 points or more in three straight games, and that’s not supposed to happen with this all-star lineup.
19. Funny thing about Lamar Jackson and several first-half interceptions: he’s committed them four times in his career, and the Ravens are 4-0 in those games.
20. Through ESPNStatsInfo: Jackson became the first quarterback since 2013 to throw four interceptions in a game and win. One of the reasons why: Cleveland has only scored three points out of the four turnovers, and it’s on a struggling offense that has produced 14 points or less in five of Baker Mayfield’s last six starts. Before Sunday night, the quarters with four picks had lost 41 times in a row.
STAT WHICH CAN ONLY INTEREST ME
A Jets quarterback has been sacked in 46 straight games, the NFL’s longest active streak.
ONE THAT MAY INTEREST YOU
Aaron Rodgers is 73-1-1 in his career leading at the half.
AND ONE FOR US TWO
AFC East went 4-0 on Sunday. This is only the second time in the past decade that all four teams have won in the same week. The previous instance dated from 2015.
SUNDAY GOLD JACKET QUOTES
“We have higher aspirations than beating the Steelers now.” – Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow.
âSee ball. Get the ball. – New England cornerback JC Jackson.
“We don’t do that.” – Cleveland Coach Kevin Stefanski on the possibility of a change of quarterback.
âWhen you turn it over, it gives them life. It’s number one. Number two: they have Tom Brady. “ – Indianapolis coach Frank Reich on the Colts’ loss to Tampa Bay.
âOnce we get into a flow it’s hard to stop. “ – Green Bay wide receiver Davante Adams.
BENEFICIARY OF THE GOLDEN JACKET FOR SUNDAY
Tampa Bay RB LÃ©onard Fournette. He scored four touchdowns before Sunday. Then he doubled that number in one afternoon, with three on the ground and one on a 4-yard reception. It was the first time Fournette had scored four times in a game, and his timing was perfect. That led Tampa Bay to a loss from behind at Indianapolis after the Bucs were down 14 at halftime. Indeed, it was at halftime that Fournette made a passionate speech to his teammates, urging them to pull themselves together over the next two quarters. They did it. âI was like, ‘You have to have a will and a desire,’â he said. âYou have to be prepared to risk everything. I think they got this message and turned off their lights.