Another week in the NFL gone by, another week in which the Patriots looked like the only NFL team that knew what the hell it was doing on Sunday.
There is some bad football being played in the league this year for sure, but the Pats almost always seem to play a clean, smart game. The Pats’ consistency is why they’re the clear cut favorites to win the Lombardi Trophy this coming February.
Being the favorites in October, though, does not guarantee a Super Bowl title. We should know this by now. Just one year ago, people around here were convinced that the Pats were not only going grab Lombardi No. 5 but they were also going to go undefeated. The Pats were 5-0 on Oct. 18 of 2015 and got to 10-0 before the infamous Sunday Night Screwjob in Denver in which Roger Goodell instructed his officials to call ridiculous offensive pass interference penalties on Rob Gronkowski (the only logical conclusion). The Pats were never truly the same after that loss as they fell, at home, to a horrible Eagles team and lost at the Jets, at the Dolphins and at Denver again in the AFC Championship game.
So, it’s important to remember: poop happens.
Now, we haven’t seen the Patriots at their best just yet this season. The win over the Browns was nice, but it was just the Browns, and the Bengals look like they might be one of the 10 worst teams in the NFL this year. The Patriots should win at Pittsburgh this coming Sunday as they caught a break with Ben Roethlisberger sidelined due to injury and they should win at Buffalo the following week as Bill Belichick typically responds well in Meeting No. 2 when he loses to a division foe in the first matchup of the season.
After the Bills game, the Pats have a bye and then host Seattle. That’s a tough three-game stretch for the Pats, before the schedule softens, but one in which they should go at least 2-1.
Who will step up?
A few weeks back in this space, I wrote about the only teams I thought were legit Super Bowl contenders and the list was as long as three: Patriots, Broncos, Vikings. The caveat here was that a few teams would step up along the way and put themselves into the discussion. So, who are the teams I believe could knock off the Pats in January or February now?
Still the Broncos (despite an ugly loss at San Diego last Thursday). Still the Vikings (who are the only undefeated team in the NFL).
I can’t promote any team in the AFC right now. The Bills have won four in a row and are fun for the moment, but I can’t imagine Tyrod Taylor walking into Foxboro in January and not having a game in which he throws four picks. The Steelers not only lost to the lowly Dolphins on Sunday, but were pounded, 30-15. So no promotion for them either. And the rest of the AFC is a jumbled mess of teams that have the potential to go 10-6.
In the NFC, I’m ready to promote two teams: the Seattle Seahawks and the Dallas Cowboys. Seattle has found its mojo on offense after an awful start as it has averaged 30 points the past three weeks. Oh, and its defense is as good as ever.
As for Dallas, I don’t care if the Packers are the worst team in the league - any time you go into Lambeau and blow out Green Bay you are a good team. Dallas is allowing just 17.8 points per game this season and has the most exciting young quarterback – running back tandem in the game. The Cowboys are finally for real.