Early on, it seemed like there might be a chance to praise Tyler Palko for his play in New England, on short notice and during a primetime television matchup on Monday night. But Palko finished with three interceptions and New England blew Kansas City out 34-3, beginning what should be a run to get the Patriots on the top of the heap heading into the AFC playoffs.
Are they the best team in the conference? No, probably not. And Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and Co. are definitely in a class below the NFC's best offering, the Packers. But there's no reason to think they won't challenge for the top seed in the AFC and make a run in the playoffs.
For starters, the AFC East is all but locked up now -- even if the Jets win out, all the Patriots have to do is go 3-3 the rest of the way to lock in another division title.
And given the remaining schedule New England has, they could do that with Vince Wilfork taking all the carries in the backfield.
New England heads to Philadelphia in Week 12, then gets the Colts in Gillette, then travels to Washington, and then to Denver, before playing the Dolphins and Bills at home to close out.
Miami and Denver are showing signs of life and Philly's always dangerous, but 3-3 is an absolute worst-case scenario for the Pats. More likely? The defense continues to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks -- and what a group they'll be playing, eh? -- and we start to view the Pats as Super Bowl contenders.
We've noted this several times over the past few weeks, but in 2010, the Patriots were "done" after a Week 9 loss to Cleveland. All Tom Brady did the rest of the season was not throw an interception as New England stormed to 14-2 and the best record in the NFL.
It's unlikely they finish with the best record this year, but they could certainly pull off the second-best record, and that's good enough for the top seed in the AFC.
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