It's that time of the year when a lot of people are getting out their shovels to bury the New England Patriots.
That would be a mistake.
We've seen it play out that way in the past. Tom Brady is too old. The defense isn't good enough. We've heard it all, and yet the Patriots somehow find a way to work through their issues and have a deep playoff run or even win it all.
That's the Bill Belichick way.
Identify problems, fix them in December and make a run in January.
So, unlike some, I am not ready to bury the Patriots, even though they have offensive issues that showed up in a big way in their loss to Texans on Sunday night, a team they had owned since Houston came into the league.
The Patriots have a speed issue outside in their passing game, which means nobody scares opponents down the field. That allows the opposition to double Julian Edelman, and there isn't a Rob Gronkowski to bail the offense out.
That, in turn, leads to frustration for Brady, which we all clearly saw Sunday night.
Russell Wilson's Seahawks won again in primetime while Kirk Cousins and the Vikings fell short, and there's a lot to go over. Luckily, Will Brinson and the Pick Six Podcast Superfriends are here to break everything down, size up the top five coaches and more. Listen below and be sure to subscribe for daily NFL goodness.
But, fret not, the Patriots will get it right and again be a playoff factor. I think they will play well this week against the Kansas City Chiefs to show how they can turn things around.
For now, the Patriots are down to fifth spot in my Power Rankings, and they are being challenged in the AFC East by the Buffalo Bills. I still think New England will win the division, but a loss this week would make it interesting down the stretch.
The rest of the AFC has to be hoping that the Bills win the division. Going to Foxborough in January isn't a winning proposition most of the time. But New England showed last season it could go out on the road and win in the playoffs.
That's why the final four weeks are so important to this team. They have things to fix, but don't dare bury them just yet.
|They just keep on winning to remain atop the rankings. At some point though, they will have to throw to the receivers more.
|They are now the No. 2 seed in the NFC and sit atop the NFC West. If the NFC playoffs go through Seattle, they just might make the Super Bowl.
|They have a big test this week against the 49ers, a game that will go a long way in deciding home-field advantage in the playoffs. The defense impressed last week in beating the Falcons.
|They showed well on defense against the Ravens, but they needed more on offense. They are suddenly in second place in the division.
|The offense is limited right now, which will challenge Josh McDaniels and Tom Brady to turn things around.
|The offense got back on track against the Giants, which you would expect. They get another winnable game this week with the Redskins.
|They lost a tough game Monday night at Seattle, but they showed well. If Dalvin Cook is lost for any length of time, that will be a big hit.
|It's time to believe in this team. Josh Allen has really elevated his game. Now comes a big one with the Ravens.
|That was a big-time victory against the Patriots. The improvement by the defense will be key down the stretch.
|They basically locked up the division beating the Raiders. The defense is showing big-time improvement by the week.
|With Ryan Tannehill playing the way he's playing, this is a good team. They can run it and throw it, and the defense is good enough to win the division.
|Devlin Hodges is 2-0 as a starter for this team. They would be a playoff team if they started today.
|That was a bad loss to the Titans. Their chances to win the division took a major hit.
|That was a bad loss at home to the Bills, but the Eagles did them a big favor by losing to the Dolphins. They need to play better.
|That was an impressive showing against the Cardinals. Where was that defense against the Ravens?
|How do they lose to the Dolphins? The defense regressed in a big way against Miami. They need to pick it up heading down the stretch on that side of the ball.
|Mitch Trubisky has showed some promise the past two weeks. That's a good thing for next season.
|The potential to be a playoff team has faded in a big way the past two weeks. The defense has regressed some, but the offense hasn't helped.
|One thing about this team: They can score points. They need to keep Jameis Winston.
|That was a playoff-ending loss to the Steelers. This season has to be considered a major disappointment.
|That loss to the Redskins is a potentially damning blow to Ron Rivera's chances to return as coach.
|They made the smart move to go to Drew Lock. He did some good things in the victory over the Chargers. Now comes a tough road game against the Texans.
|They just can't win any close games, and as a result the playoffs are long gone. This team seems jinxed at times.
|The defense has been brutal at times this season, especially last week against the Rams. The offense didn't do much either.
|The three-game winning streak ended with a thud. The offense was awful against the Bengals.
|A housecleaning is certainly coming after the season. That Nick Foles contract looks like a real albatross for whoever is running this team, especially with him being benched.
|They impressed in beating Carolina on Sunday. They have an impressive young runner in Derrius Guice.
|So much for the idea they would be able to save Dan Quinn's job. That seems to have no chance now.
|They've won three games, which is something few saw coming. Brian Flores deserves a ton of credit for the job he's done this season.
|With no Matt Stafford, this season is off the rails. Can Matt Patricia withstand the losing?
|Can Pat Shurmur really come back? This team is a disaster. Change has to be coming.
|They won a game, but they still have the worst record, which is a good thing. Was playing Andy Dalton a good thing since they won?