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NFL Week 4 Power Rankings: Reality check for Patriots

Posted by Obnoxious Boston Fan  September 28, 2013 11:37 AM

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Belichick AP.jpgBill Belichick [above] and Walter White will be dealing with lots of stress on Sunday night.

[Spolier Altert: Contains references to "Breaking Bad" that won't reveal anything and some spot-on predictions that leave readers wondering how we were able to travel back to the future on the same week Michael J. Fox's new TV series made its premiere.]

It's time to face reality this week.

For the Patriots, Aaron Hernandez and Walter White.

White's reality appears to be headed for a grim conclusion in the series finale of "Breaking Bad" Sunday night. His fate will be determined sometime during the second-half of Sunday's Patriots-Falcons game.

Thousands of viewers across New England will be torn between "Breaking Bad" and the Patriots avoiding bad breaks. [Take our boston.com survey here.] Both the Patriots and Walter's meth-producing co-horts have associated themselves with murderers, whether they be of alleged variety in real life or the real variety on fake TV.

Hernandez was arrested in June and charged in the killing of Odin Lloyd. We note that in case NBC mentions the "Hernandez situation" on this week's NFL-sanctioned-if-not-censored broadcast. In three games this season, we've heard announcers on CBS, Fox and NFL Network discuss or briefly mention the "Hernandez situation" whenever the Patriots dropped a pass or blew a third-down conversion. By now, anyone watching this team knows that Hernandez is in jail [he's pled not guilty] for murder and he was an important part of the team's offense last season.

Calling it a "situation" is an affront to Lloyd's memory and his family.

Friday, the screws were tightened on Hernandez as he sat in jail. Prosecutors announced three new indictments in Lloyd's killing. Indictments were handed down for Hernandez's fiancee and cousin, and a new charge against Hernandez's pal Carlos Ortiz.

The most telling move was the lone perjury charge against Shayanna Jenkins, who is also the mother of Hernandez's infant daughter, who turns 1 next month.

"Your baby is in the other room. You can go home with her if you help us find the murder weapon."

While Hernandez's thug pals might honor the street code of silence, his Baby Mama will probably go Henry Hill once she has the first chance.

Sing, sing, sing. Now whether the jury would believe someone who has a baby at home, would likely say whatever is necessary to be with that child [who among us wouldn't?] but was initially charged with perjury is another story.

This week, on both AMC and the turf of the Georgia Dome, the biggest truths of 2013 thus far will manifest themselves. Walter White [played by Bryan Cranston for those who don't follow the show] is pretty much at the end of his line, although for Walter, that line seems to never end.

The flip side to "Team Chemistry." A stressful night is in store for both White and his fellow mastermind Bill Belichick.

Tom Brady and the Patriots are not at the end of their line, but they have reached their first big turning point of the season. The Falcons, a pre-season Super Bowl pick by some including yours truly, have struggled and misfired on offense this season, sputtering to a 1-2 start.

Matt Ryan [81 for 119 passing, 68.1 percentage with 909 yards passing, six TDs, two picks and 100 QB rating] has certainly done his best to live up to that $100 million contract extension he signed in the offseason. I'll bet that bumped up the old "Average salary of BC alumni chart" that might entice potential students.

Despite Matty Ice's numbers, the Falcons' running game has looked like slush. Jacquizz Rodgers is the team's leading rusher with 102 yards on 31 carries and the team is averaging just 90 yards on the ground per game, 22nd in the league. The Patriots defense might be more successful against this bunch than initially feared.

The growing weight of the state's case and the never-ending clock for someone who sits in prison will continue to chip away at Hernandez. White is moving on one way or another Sunday night. Meanwhile, the Patriots will take another major step in their emerging post-Wes Welker-Hernandez reality.

The Patriots offense, and particularly its inability to score touchdowns in the red zone, remains a concern. New England's 13 trips to the red zone are third in the NFL, but they have just four touchdowns, a 30.8 percent success rate which is last in the league.

The good news, they're still 3-0 and haven't have Rob Gronkowski, Danny Amendola full-time, or all those other receivers who left town for various reasons.

In the short run, it appears only the Patriots will emerge from this week's events intact. If indeed Gronk and/or Amendola play Sunday, it should provide Brady with enough fresh options to keep up with whatever antics Ryan has in store for New England's secondary on the fast track of the Georgia Dome. If they don't, Brady and the team's developing running should deep Atlanta off the field just long enough. If the Patriots actually ran the ball inside the 20, they might even score a TD now and then.

With a quarter of the NFL season in the books after Sunday night, it's also time to move on from Welker, Hernandez, Brandon Lloyd, Deion Branch, Stanley Morgan, Randy Vataha and every other receiver who is no longer with the team. We know the Patriots screwed up by letting Welker walk over 200 million-or-so pennies. But he's now Peyton Manning's binky. For your own sanity, try to limit the "Welker-would-have-that" or the "Damn you, Hernandez" outbursts to just once per game.

They're both gone and they're not coming back.

Just like Walter White after Sunday night.

Here are this week's rankings, with the team records and last week's rankings in parentheses.

Here's the Week 4 GIF of the week, courtesy of Browns' QB and former Patriots' backup Brian Hoyer, who had the game of his life leading Cleveland past the winless Vikings. He was on all day, except for this attempt:

Browns

1. Seahawks (3-0: 1) - Coming off a bye [OK, they played Jacksonville at home, but come on . . . ] the Seahawks should be well-prepared to handle the Texans' defense. Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch will be too elusive for J.J. Watt and Co.

2. Broncos (3-0; 2) - Peyton Manning got a little chippy with the NFL this week, griping about the fact he and the Broncos only have six days to prepare for Chip Kelly's Eagles this week, while the Eagles have had 12 days off to get ready for Denver. Kelly's response: "[If] we got to play in a parking lot? We'll go play in a parking lot. We don't care." Philly's defense will wish it had stayed in the parking lot once the Broncos get finished with them.

3. Patriots (3-0; 4) - Whoever said Brady wasn't hard on himself?

Brady GIF

Gronkowski and Amendola are listed as "questionable" this week.

For three straight years, from 2005-08, Brady was listed as "probable - shoulder" on the Patriots' weekly injury report. It was a running-joke of sorts for all until Brady was removed from the injury report for Week 1 of the 2008 season. During the first-quarter of that game, he suffered a season-ending left-knee injury courtesy of Bernard Pollard. Maybe it's better if Gronk and Amendola stay "questionable" until further notice.

4. Dolphins (3-0; 5) - The Dolphins and GM Jeff Ireland reached a contract extension this past offseason, but word of the deal wasn't leaked out by the team until after Miami's 3-0 start. That's full-disclosure compared to what we get from Foxborough. For all we know, Bill Belichick signed a life-time deal with Mephistopheles before Super Bowl XXXVI.

5. Saints (3-0; 10) - Someone at the ESPN scheduling stumbled into this terrific Week 6 "Monday Night Football" match-up of undefeated teams. The Saints defensive front and the home-field advantage should be too much for the Dolphins to handle, with or without Ireland's new contract.

6. Chiefs [sorry if you're offended] (3-0; 6) - Facing the Giants at home means a 4-0 start.

7. Bears (3-0; 11) - Marc Trestman is undefeated as an NFL head coach. Bet you didn't see that one coming, Jay Cutler.

8. Ravens (2-1; 12) - Joe Flacco has produced more children this season than first-half touchdowns. The second-half is a different story. During the final 30 minutes, Flacco has completed 79.2 percent of his passes for 220 yards. His ESPN QBR after halftime is 95.2, which trails only Peyton Manning (98.9).

9. Bengals (2-1; 13) - BenJarvus Green-Ellis had a fumble returned for a touchdown last week. And you thought the Red Sox winning the A.L. East was a shocker.

10. Texans (2-1; 7) - The Texans are minus-12 in total point differential but still have a winning record. They are the only team in the league underwater in that category.

11. Colts (2-1; 15) - Pulled the Lucky Straw this week. Visit to Jacksonville will be a Hostess Cupcakewalk compared to last week's close-than-it-looked 27-7 over the 49ers.

12. 49ers (2-2; 3) - 35-11 win over St. Louis Thursday night featured Anquan Boldin making five catches for 90 yards and Frank Gore chewing up 153 yards on 20 carries.

13. Cowboys (2-1; 14) - Defensive tackle Jason Hatcher called out Tony Romo for calling audibles to avoid running plays. Then, after the Cowboys ran 34 times for 193 yards, Hatcher was backtracking, saying "I love Romo to death." Most Cowboys fans love Romo when he's not throwing the ball.

14. Lions (2-1; 16) - It was refreshing to hear Calvin Johnson this week say he didn't really like the Bears. Megatron hold his team's website: "It's easy to have a dislike for them. It's not hard at all." He'd really hate 'em if he was stuck with Culter as his quarterback.

15. Falcons (1-2; 8) - Atlanta is 23-3 after a loss under Mike Smith and have won 14 straight the week after losing. They lost last week.

16. Packers (1-2; 9) - Green Bay desperately needs a bye week after last week's disastrous defeat in Cincinnati. The Packers squandered a 16-point lead and managed to score 30 unanswered points and still lose. You have to go back to the last century, on Sept. 12, 1999, to find the last time a team allowed 30 straight points and still won. The Redskins [apologies if you're offended] scored 32 unanswered points but lost 41-35 overtime loss to Dallas.

17. Titans (2-1; 19) - Jake Locker and Chris Johnson are on their own.

18. Chargers (1-2; 17) - Have gotten an early jump on their annual December slide.

19. Eagles (1-2; 18) - Yes, Chip Kelly, attempting to play defense is actually required by the NFL. Philadelphia is giving up 327 yards passing and 28.7 points per game. Peyton and Wes Welker can't wait.

20. Rams (1-2; 20) - Showed up Thursday. That was about it.

21. Steelers (0-3; 21) - Big Ben meets Big Ben as the Steelers visit Wembley Stadium to face the Vikings. These teams are bringing a combined 0-6 record to England. Tally-Woe.

22. Redskins [apologies if you're offended] (0-3; 22) - "RG 0-3" - had that one in last week's poll.

23. Giants (0-3; 23) - How come Eli was never this bad in February?

24. Vikings (0-3; 24) - Football fans in England get to see what football fans in New England saw for [almost] the entire 2008 season - Matt Cassel at starting QB. He took over Friday for the injured Christian Ponder, who practiced all week with a broken rib. The injury was also aggravated by his 65.9 QB rating, 30th in the NFL, and the Vikings' 0-3 start.

25. Jets (2-1; 31) - Perhaps they deserve more respect, but they won't get it here. Not after committing a franchise-record 20 penalties in last week's win over Buffalo. Kyle WIlson earned three flags during Buffalo's drive that tied the game after they trailed 20-6.

26. Cardinals (1-2; 25) - Turns out Carson Palmer [through his agent] was contacted "a lot" by this week's opponent, Tampa Bay, during the offseason. Palmer ended up in Arizona. Choosing between the Bucs and Cardinals would be a lot like having to choose between the Bucs and Cardinals.

27. Panthers (1-2; 26) - 38 points against the Giants probably isn't as impressive as it sounds.

28. Raiders (1-2; 28) - QB Terrelle Pryor, who will likely miss this week's game against Washington, played two snaps after suffering a concussion Monday night against Denver. And you thought the Red Sox medical staff was slow. An athletic trainer stationed in the press box at the game spotted the hit and alerted doctors on the sideline.

29. Bills (1-2; 29) - Rookie QB EJ Manuel took eight sacks last week, completing just 19 of 42 pass attempts for 243 yards. Against the Jets. The NFL is a long way from Tallahassee, son.

30. Browns (1-2; 30) - Perhaps they should trade Trent Richardson more often.

31. Bucs (0-3; 27) - Replacing quarterback Josh Freeman with rookie Mike Glennon is like shuffling the deck chairs on the pirate ship in Tampa Bay.

32. Jaguars (0-2; 31) - The Jaguars are offering fans two free beers if they buy a ticket to this week's game. And another 12-pack if they actually show up.

Don't forget to visit our Obnoxious Boston Fan blog. As always, let us know what you think. Post your thoughts here, on our Obnoxious Boston Fan Facebook page, on Twitter @realOBF or e-mail me at obnoxiousbost onfan@hotmail.com.

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