For the first time in quite a while, the Patriots are looking like a troubled franchise.
They’re one loss away from their first three-game losing streak since 2002.
Their AFC East lead is dwindling.
Bill Belichick kicked four players out of practice Wednesday for being late to a team meeting.
And Tom Brady has missed consecutive practices with a multitude of injuries (though it’s unclear if they’ll affect his availability Sunday).
Yes, it’s a rough time to be a Patriot.
Just in time, though, come the Panthers.
Carolina is 5-7 (to New England’s 7-5), and has lost two of its last three. Their quarterback situation is murky. And they’re a southern team coming to Gillette Stadium on a day where it’s expected to be cloudy and in the mid-30s.
Seems like just the ticket for the beginning of a recovery — and the start of an earnest playoff push.
But that’s exactly how we were thinking about Miami last week.