In the wake of Sunday’s action, five takeaways for Patriots fans
|11.21.11 at 12:42 am ET|
Five things for Patriots fans to take away from an entertaining day of football:
1. It’s officially time to write off the Bills. The wheels have come off the Buffalo bandwagon completely, so much so that Miami, which is now at 3-7, could ultimately end up winning more games than the 5-5 Bills. Buffalo, which started the season promisingly and was in first place three weeks ago with a 5-2 record, has now lost its last three games and has been outscored 106-26 while doing so. In addition, the Bills continue to lose players at an alarming rate. On Sunday they lost wide receiver Donald Jones and Terrence McGee to serious leg injuries, and running back Fred Jackson left in the second half with a leg injury. This comes on the heels of recent season-ending injuries to starting center Eric Wood (knee), defensive tackle Kyle Williams (foot) and linebacker Shawne Merriman (Achilles tendon).
2. Should they get themselves a bye and avoid the mess of the opening weekend of the postseason, they Patriots should consider themselves lucky they won’t have to chance it against a team like the Bengals, or perhaps the Ravens. Those two teams went hard at each other on Sunday, and even though legendary Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis missed his first game since 2007 with a toe injury, the Ravens managed to hold off the Bengals, 31-24. The win could end up sending three AFC North teams to the postseason — Baltimore and Pittsburgh are tied for the top spot at 7-3, while Cincinnati is a game off the pace. Even though the Ravens have been maddening at times this year — they’ve lost to Tennessee, Jacksonville and Seattle but also beaten Pittsburgh and Houston — their veteran savvy and solid running game make them a threat.
3. The Packers kept their dream of a perfect season alive Sunday when Aaron Rodgers led a Green Bay rally in the fourth quarter to lead the Packers past Tampa Bay, 35-26. Green Bay improved to 10-0, becoming the fourth team since the 2007 Patriots to win their first 10 games. (However, New England was the only team to seal the deal and go 16-0.) The last time the Packers lost a game was last December against the Patriots in Foxboro — since then, they’ve won 15 straight, and are approaching the longest streak in NFL history, set by the 2003-04 Patriots, who won 21 in a row. (New England is also tied for the third-longest winning streak in NFL history when it won 18 straight in 2007.)
4. Speaking of Tampa Bay, a week after former Patriots defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth had an otherworldly performance for the Bucs (he started, played 47 snaps, made five tackles and blocked an extra point in a loss to Houston), the big fella had a tackle and a quarterback hit in the loss for the Bucs. He’s already carved out a reputation as a leader with Tampa Bay and appears bound and determined to create a new name for himself with the Bucs. Only time will tell if it ends up like it did in New England.
5. With the Patriots not playing until Monday night and the Eagles facing the Giants on Sunday night, it was a good chance to get a closer look at New England’s next opponent. In a must-win situation — the Eagles likely need to come close to running the table the rest of the season if they want to even make the playoffs — Andy Reid and company were inconsistent for much of the night but managed to pull out a narrow 17-10 win over the Giants, thanks in large part to a late drive engineered by Vince Young. The Eagles have some injury questions (including DeSean Jackson and Michael Vick), but figure to be an intriguing matchup when the Patriots travel to Lincoln Financial Field Sunday. One thing to look for: Watching the Eagles, I was reminded of an August conversation I had with NFL Network analyst Brian Baldinger in the wake of New England’s ugly preseason loss to the Lions. Baldinger said that Patriots fans can take solace in the fact that there was only one other team on New England’s schedule that could replicate the same kind of pass rush that Detroit was able to inflict on Tom Brady and the Patriots: the Eagles. ‘The one team that plays that sort of defense are the Eagles,’ Baldinger said. ‘Detroit plays it better right now, but the Eagles have more experience and have been in that system longer. But they do the exact same thing that the Lions do.’