Senior Writer

Power Rankings: Brady, Belichick keep Pats steaming along


Updated Nov. 2

One after another they've fallen (a weekly thing it seems), the top teams tumbling just after staking a claim as the best in the NFL.

Devin McCourty has put himself in the running for Defensive Rookie of the Year. (Getty Images)  
Devin McCourty has put himself in the running for Defensive Rookie of the Year. (Getty Images)  
So who's the best team halfway through the season? None other than the New England Patriots, the supposed "other" team in the AFC East this season. While nearly everyone was raving about the New York Jets this summer, fawning over their cursing head coach and the fun they had, many seemed to forget the most important part of football:

It's all about coach and quarterback.

The Patriots have both, two future Hall of Fame men who are second to none as a combination in the NFL right now, and arguably one of the great combos ever.

It's Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, two men bound forever by their genius and by their successes.

Did you really think they weren't going to be in the playoff mix this season?

The Jets were shut out by the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, and later that afternoon the Patriots beat the Minnesota Vikings 28-18. After Pittsburgh lost to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday night, there was one team left with just one loss: the Patriots.

At 6-1, they move to the top of the Power Rankings. The scary thing for the rest of the league is they are getting better. A roster full of young contributors still hasn't played its best football.

"With as many young guys as we have on this team, we need to think about today and then tomorrow and not get too far ahead of ourselves," Brady said. "Coach always says, 'Six games gets you nothing in this league,' which is true. So we've won six games, [but] if we have six wins at the end of the year, then we haven't done anything. There's a lot of football left. We've got a big game coming up this week on the road."

The young players continue to improve. Rookie corner Devin McCourty, who had a big interception against the Vikings, is quietly emerging as a Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate. Two other rookies, linebackers Brandon Spikes and Jermaine Cunningham, are playing big roles on the defense.

That defense is only going to get better. The offense still doesn't scare people down the field -- although Brandon Tate's 65-yard touchdown catch against Minnesota shows there is potential -- but as long as Brady is leading that unit it will be fine. On the Tate touchdown, it was actually a great play by Brady that made it work. Faced with pressure, he moved in the pocket and just as he was about to be hit he saw Tate break deep and he hit him for the score. It was vintage Brady.

Belichick has pieced together an offense that is devoid of stars other than Brady but can still scheme its way to points. That has put extra pressure on both Brady and Belichick to come up with new and creative ways to move the ball.

One example of this came against Minnesota when Brady hit rookie tight end Aaron Hernandez for a big play on the game-clinching touchdown drive. It was the exact same play the Patriots used on a touchdown drive against Baltimore two weeks ago. Hernandez lines up as an in-line tight end on the left side and runs a wheel route outside the receiver, who is running a slant. There is no way the linebacker or safety can get to Hernandez, who runs well for a tight end, and this time it was a 27-yard gain.

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That's the kind of thing Brady and Belichick bring to this offense. It's what they have to do without Randy Moss.

I'll be honest here. I still think Moss will be missed at some point -- his speed, not his bitching -- but Brady can throw to anybody and make the offense go.

The difference between the Jets and the Patriots is the coach-quarterback combination.

New England's is second to none, and that's why the Patriots are the best team in football right now. That might seem like a surprise, but really shouldn't be.


Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. He hosted his own radio show for seven years, and is the self-anointed star of CBS Sports' show, Eye on Football. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an Arizona State national title in football.

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