It wasn't long ago that the 1-2 Patriots looked unrecognizable from the dominant Brady and Belichick teams of the last two decades. Now they're well-positioned to run the table and go 14-2.
It isn't the sexiest note because regular-season records have proven to not be necessarily indicative of an impending title, but think about what we were saying going into the Dolphins game in Week 4. Even if you thought the Pats would win, we were still having a discussion as to whether the Patriots were capable of beating the freaking Dolphins in a kind of important game.
Skip ahead to present day and Sunday night's win over the Packers wasn't just a test of Brady vs. Rodgers, but a test of whether there was anything left on New England's schedule to give them a third or fourth loss. The money here -- from the guy whose 19-0 watch season was admittedly a bit premature -- is on them winning out.
It's a fascinating case because this still doesn't feel like one of the better teams of the Belichick era, yet they've "only" reached 14 wins five times in the Belichick era. Of course, the 2010 Patriots (Rex Ryan couldn't wait to mock them), proved that you can finish 14-2 and still be a paper tiger.
With that said, the Patriots -- with their questions about Rob Gronkowski's health among other concerns -- should be gunning for the No. 1 seed, which the 8-1 Chiefs currently possess. The Pats narrowly beat the Chiefs in their Week 6 shootout at Gillette, so changing the location for an AFC Championship would be suboptimal.
Here's New England's remaining schedule:
Home vs. Minnesota
Home vs. Buffalo
Home vs. Jets
There's two toughies in there over the course of a three-week stretch (Vikings and Steelers). The Steelers are beatable at home or on the road, but they're still one of what, four teams in the AFC that should be taken seriously?
The bigger threat might be the Vikings, who, outside of a hilarious Week 3 loss to the Bills at home, have enjoyed a promising start to the Kirk Cousins era, especially on the road.
They've beaten the Packers (which is looking less and less special) in Green Bay, beaten the Eagles in Philly and played the Rams close in LA. By the time they hit Gillette in Week 13, they could also have a road win over the Bears under their belt.
There's also the threat of the surprising late-season-loss-to-a-nobody-team that's happened over the years, but this season's team should figure to avoid any and all complacency given how wonky a start it had. Also, it's just really hard to imagine the Jets doing anything. Sam Darnold might do a butt interception.
The end result could very well be a 14-2 team that still has questions on defense and may or may not have a real running back. Home field aside, you should root for it just to see every other football fan lose their mind at a potentially down year for the Patriots ending with a fantastic record and a No. 1 seed.
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