It isn’t the Pittsburgh Steelers that the Patriots should fear disrupting their current dynasty within a dynasty.
It could be the Jacksonville Jaguars.
After being benched by Giants head coach Ben McAdoo, and anointed as the patron saint of the Meadowlands in the days that followed, Eli Manning’s career in New York is all but over, likely to precede an offseason release and acquisition by some other team. Namely, the Jaguars, where old head coach Tom Coughlin is overseeing a 7-4 team with a stellar defense as vice president of operations. But it’s still a team lacking. Even with Blake Bortles at quarterback.
Enter Eli, and do the Jaguars suddenly become a premier team in the NFL next season?
Maybe. It’s the exact script Peyton followed in hightailing it to the Denver Broncos, with the league’s best defense only a few years ago. Why wouldn’t the younger Manning be able to go down the same path toward a third Lombardi Trophy.
And doesn’t having Eli and Coughlin in the AFC Championship game against the Patriots, the team they dethroned twice in the Super Bowl, add a little more credence to what the Jaguars can potentially do beyond 2017?
Perhaps it’s time to fear the Jags.
This week’s picks:
Greg Cote, Miami Herald: Patriots 30, Bills 20. “Smokin’ Pats are 5-0 on road, but Bison are solid 4-1 at home. Upset Bird is circling but I say nope. Must bow to trends: NE has owned Bills 29-5 since 2000, including five straight road wins.”
Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: Patriots 34, Bills 17. “The Bills were impressive in winning at Kansas City, but their defense isn’t good enough to beat New England – even at home. Look for a monster game from Tom Brady as the Pats continue to dominate the division.”
CBS Sports staff: Seven out of eight pick the Patriots, both straight-up and against the spread (Buffalo +9).
David Steele, Sporting News: Patriots 30, Bills 24. “The Patriots and Bills get their two meetings in a span of four weeks, unfortunate for a Buffalo team that will need help down the stretch to make the playoffs. The Bills have managed to beat the Patriots twice in the last four seasons and five meetings … and have lost their coach at the end of the season each time (Doug Marrone, Rex Ryan). Last year’s win, of course, was during Tom Brady’s suspension. That suspension is over.”
Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News: Patriots 33, Bills 14. “Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski are back on the same page for touchdowns, timed well with Gronk’s return to his hometown this week. The Patriots’ offense will continue to run and pass at will against an overmatched Bills defense. They also can take away Tyrod Taylor’s limited weapons after stopping LeSean McCoy.”
SB Nation staff: Patriots across the board.
Chris Simms, Bleacher Report: Patriots 34, Bills 20. “The Bills always fight hard against the Patriots, but fight isn’t going to be enough.”
Benjamin Hoffman, New York Times: Patriots. “The easiest way to demonstrate how flawed the A.F.C. has been this season has been to point out that the Bills (6-5, 35 percent) are out of the current playoff field only because of a tiebreaker, despite a defense that cannot stop the run and the coaching staff’s having so little faith in Tyrod Taylor that it tried to replace him at quarterback with a rookie drafted in the fifth round. Because two of the Bills’ five remaining games are against the Patriots (9-2, > 99 percent), their playoff hopes are likely to fade quickly.”
Jimmy Kempski, Philly Voice: Patriots. “The Bills have gone back and forth from impressive-looking team at times on the field, to quarterback-switching embarrassment at others. Sadly, this is the Pats’ best competition in the horrendous (Pats aside) AFC East.”
Five Thirty Eight: Patriots with a 73 percent chance of winning.
ESPN staff: All Pats.
Mike Florio, Pro Football Talk: Patriots 27, Bills 14. “The Patriots are back in Buffalo, and the only real drama relates to whether anything else with Tom Brady’s name on it will be thrown on the field.”
Michael David Smith, Pro Football Talk: Patriots 35, Bills 21. “The Patriots are cruising toward another AFC East title, and this is the victory that will put the division out of reach.”
Elliot Harrison, NFL.com: Patriots 26, Bills 22. “No, I’m not picking a blowout in this AFC East tussle. The Bills’ defense will show up Sunday. Forcing Tom Brady to make mistakes will be problematic, however, as the 40-year-old quarterback’s season is evolving into one of the best campaigns in an all-time great catalogue. Brady has thrown a scant three interceptions in 408 attempts. That is an unbelievably low interception percentage of 0.7, putting him on pace to lead the NFL in that category for a third straight year. By the way, Brady’s passer rating when targeting Rob Gronkowski this season is 124.9. That’s the top mark among pass catchers with 70-plus targets in 2017.”
It says here: Patriots 34, Bills 0. Two weeks until Pittsburgh.