Hey, how about that Patriots defense, right?
The secondary has now gotten to the point that even the most stalwart Pats fan is biting his or her nails in anticipation of the next contest, with a faith that teeters on hopeful, yet often drifts into a depressing reality. It is a unit that made Mark Sanchez look even somewhat pedestrian last Sunday at Gillette. Mark Sanchez.
Now, here come the Rams, with a tough defensive unit that ranks ninth in total defense, 14th against the pass, and 10th against the run. The Patriots defense has allowed an average of 8.1 yards per pass play, 29th in the league. New England can stop the run (eighth, 3.3 yards per rush), but is floundering among the worst in the league in total yardage. The other teams with them in the doldrums include the Giants, Ravens, and Falcons, three teams that are a combined 16-4 this season.
Point being, not time to freak out. Yet.
This week's picks:
Globe staff: Four out of five pick the Patriots (New England by 7 1/2).
Peter King, Sports Illustrated: Patriots 30, Rams 20. "In the next couple of days, the media will debate which team is smarter -- the Rams for having flown to London Monday and practiced there all week, or the Patriots, for practicing at home through Thursday and then, spending minimal time over there, flying to London late in the week. And after the game on Sunday, it'll be one dead story angle, because it just doesn't matter. Tom Brady's not going to have better or worse chemistry with Wes Welker Sunday at Wembley Stadium whether he practices in Foxboro or Burkina Faso."
ESPN.com staff: All Pats, all the time.
Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: Patriots 33, Rams 17. "The Rams struggled against Aaron Rodgers last week. Now they have to deal with Tom Brady. The Patriots, for all their problems, are first in the league in offense. That will show up here. Look for Tom Brady to continue where Rodgers left off last week."
CBS Sports staff: Four writers pick the Patriots, four pick the Rams.
Mike Florio, ProFootballTalk.com: Patriots 27, Rams 21. "The team whose name pays homage to the men who kicked the butts of the Brits like to kick butt in Britain. Though it won't be a blowout like it was three years ago against the Bucs, the Pats should be able to build a fourth-quarter lead. And hold it. For a change."
Michael David Smith, ProFootballTalk.com: Patriots 16, Rams 10. "The Rams' secondary has been playing well and the Patriots' secondary has been leaving receivers wide open, and I'm tempted to pick the upset for that reason. But with Danny Amendola hurt I don't think the Rams have the ammunition to take advantage of the Patriots' problems on defense, and I think New England's running game can churn up yardage at Wembley Stadium and lead the Patriots to a low-scoring win."
Greg Cote, Miami Herald: Patriots 34, Rams 20. "Blimey! Cheerio! OK that's it. I'm out of cartoon stereotypes of Brits. This marks NFL?s sixth consecutive year playing a regular-season game at Wembley Stadium, and I might suggest Tom Brady and Pats are a tad more accustomed than Rams to a big-stage game. NE is 0-2 vs. NFC West; that ends. Can?t see Sam Bradford outpointing Brady."
USA Today staff: Patriots across the board.
Yahoo! sports staff: Three for three with the Pats.
Peter Schrager, Foxsports.com: Rams 24, Patriots 20. "The Josh McDaniels Bowl! In London! Or, something like that. The Rams offensive coordinator from a season ago is running the offense in New England now, but the Patriots O sure seems to have its issues in the fourth quarter. The Pats, for whatever reason, have become a different team when the game matters most. Look for Chris Long and Robert Quinn to get to Tom Brady early, and for Jeff Fisher's boys to find a way to come out on top. This is not the Rams of 2007 and this certainly isn't the Pats of '07. New England's struggles vs. the NFC West continue with a shocker in London."
It says here: Patriots 28, Rams 24.: Pats lead early. Rams mount a comeback. Have we seen this script before?