Patriots

Even idle, everything this season is coming up Patriots

The Patriots moved into first place of the AFC East while a top conference contender lost on Sunday.

The Patriots got to celebrate on Sunday even though they didn't play. Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Sunday was a good day to be a Patriots fan. Then again, what day isn’t? 

Still, Sunday came with its own brand of armchair magic. As idle New England sat back and watched, its next two opponents, the two teams that stand in the way of the Patriots and the AFC’s No. 1 seed, both performed as if they were caught looking ahead to the NFL’s oncoming storm. 

The Tennessee Titans couldn’t get out of the same trap that threatened the Patriots against the Houston Texans, falling 22-13. The top seed in the AFC (8-3) has now lost to the Jets and Texans, who each have only one other win to their names this season. 

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The Buffalo Bills, meanwhile, surrendered the top spot in the AFC East right around the time Colts running back Jonathan Taylor decided not to spend the day in bed. Taylor’s five touchdowns helped beat the Bills, 41-15, and launched the Patriots, who had already taken care of their own Week 11 business in Atlanta on Thursday night, back into the divisional lead. 

It even had the makings of providing more good fortune had it not been for a remarkable touchdown drive for the Baltimore Ravens to dispatch the Chicago Bears. That prevented the Ravens from falling into a two-way tie with the 7-4 Patriots for second place in the AFC. 

Regardless, it was indeed a good day, one that puts even further emphasis on the next two games against the Titans (Sunday) and Bills (Dec. 6). Heading into their toughest stretch of the season, the Patriots seemed to quell some nerves without even lifting a finger. 

If the Patriots are able to beat the Titans at Gillette Stadium in Week 12, they could, potentially, finish the weekend holding the top seed in the AFC. 

If they’re able to make it seven in a row with a win against the Bills, the Patriots could, potentially, make it difficult for Buffalo to get into the playoffs.  

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The timings for the sudden downfalls of Tennessee and Buffalo can’t be coincidental, right? It only makes sense to figure that both teams were already trying to figure out how to solve the charging locomotive that is the New England Patriots. 

It was only a little more than a month ago that the 2-4 Patriots were slotted in with the seventh pick in next spring’s draft. Now, they’re the team nobody else wants to deal with. 

Only a few days ago, the Bills held the best odds to win the Super Bowl (+600). Now, they’re a wild card team.  

If you, for some reason, went into Sunday looking for some slivers of reason to temper your suddenly-lofty expectations for the Patriots, the rest of the field didn’t do you much good. The Ravens were able to win without Lamar Jackson. The Chiefs look like they’re ready to roll. The Colts are peaking with three weeks and a bye still until they’re able to start planning for the Patriots. 

Other than that, it felt like your typical football Sunday in New England. The Patriots looked better for not playing, if only because their next two opponents had their hierarchies dented. Quarterbacks Josh Allen and Ryan Tannehill (who threw four interceptions against the Texans) already looked broken on Sunday. What’s going to happen when they face Bill Belichick? 

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The Patriots’ defense has been leaving a trail of dismantled QBs in its wake. So it’s probably not all that comforting to Bills fans that Allen has two of his team’s next four games against a defense that helped hold Matt Ryan and Baker Mayfield to seven points over the course of two games. 

But if there’s any coach who has shown perhaps some ability to out-maneuver his former master, it’s Mike Vrabel. But his quarterback has suddenly turned into Ryan Tannehill. Derrick Henry is gone. And a defense that had performed at such a high level this season, just lost to the Texans. (It also lost to the Jets, you know.) 

It all has the makings for the Patriots to be sitting at 9-4 heading into their mid-December bye. 

While the Patriots have taken the NFL by surprise, the rest of the competition has settled to some degree. For while the Bills and Titans suddenly find themselves creeping backwards to the wall, the Colts and Chiefs seem hellbent on giving the Patriots a late-season run. 

Only a few days ago, the Titans and Bills (twice) seemed like the most important dates remaining on the calendar. Instead, it might be against the 6-5 Colts, who hammered the team resembling the Bills on Sunday. Indianapolis will get New England coming out of its bye on the weekend before Christmas 

Nine teams have lost (the Lions tied) coming out of their bye weeks this season. But only one team has lost to both the Jets and Texans. 

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The first-place Patriots did their work early, then sat back and witnessed their good fortune. Up next, instead of having to beat the top seed in their conference, they have to beat a team that has already lost to the two worst teams in football. 

Sunday was, indeed, a good day to be a Patriots fan. 

What else is new? 

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