Senior NFL Columnist

Power Rankings: Patriots rounding into form; showdown with Texans looms

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OK, so the perfect-record prediction I made for the New England Patriots went crappy a long time ago.

So tee off all you want.

But I did pick the Patriots to get to the Super Bowl, too. After seeing them destroy the New York Jets last week, I am convinced that as of right now they are the AFC's best team.

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In two weeks, they get the Houston Texans with a chance to prove it. The Texans remain the top team here in the CBSSports.com Power Rankings, but their recent defensive struggles have to be a concern, especially that they've struggled against the good passers.

New England, last time I checked, has one of the best passers ever in Tom Brady.

The Denver Broncos and Baltimore Ravens are in the conversation for best AFC team, but I lean to the Patriots. Baltimore beat the Patriots by a point, but the Ravens have one offensive touchdown in the past eight quarters.

The Patriots are the top-scoring team in the league, but what will make the difference down the stretch is their defensive improvement. The young secondary is getting better. The addition of Aqib Talib will help improve the coverage.

New England has lost three games by a combined four points. One of those losses is the great wonder of this season, the Patriots losing at home by two points to the Cardinals. How did that happen?

The other two losses were by one point each to the Seahawks and the Ravens on the road.

So the Patriots are four points away from having a chance to be 16-0. Just saying. So don't kill me that much.

It's not about going undefeated, as the Patriots found out in 2007. It's about winning it all.

And right now, they have as good a shot as anybody.

Tom Brady? Check.

Bill Belichick? Check.

The improved running game? Check.

Better defense? TBD. If that improves, watch out.

They might not be 16-0, but I can tell you nobody in the AFC wants to play them come playoff time.

RANK TEAM MOVE (LW)

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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