CBS Sports NFL analyst Boomer Esiason  made his weekly appearance with Dennis & Callahan on Monday morning, following an exciting weekend of playoff action that was capped by the Patriots’ 41-28 victory over the Texans.
Despite losing Rob Gronkowski  early in the game, the Patriots found their rhythm on offense and pulled away for the most convincing win of the weekend.
“When I look at the Patriots from an offensive perspective, I think it’s the best team that they’ve ever had — the complement of players,” Esiason said. “Even with Gronkowski out and Danny Woodhead  out and Julian Edelman  out, guys like Shane Vereen  step up, Stevan Ridley had a great game yesterday, there were couple of catches that [Wes] Welker made that we’ve all become used to, and then of course Aaron Hernandez , and you realize how good that offensive line is. I would sit here and argue with anybody: Over the life of the [Tom] Brady-[Bill] Belichick decade here that this is clearly — I don’t want to say clearly — but I feel pretty confident that it’s the best offense they’ve got.”
Added Esiason: “Even without Gronkowski, they’re still putting up 40 points a game. All of that is due in large part to the quarterback that is the ringleader in all of this and was pinpoint with his passing a his accuracy yesterday. There’s no question in my mind that Tom Brady , much like Joe Montana , is in the stratosphere of quarterbacks in the NFL. If we’re talking about who’s better here, who’s better there, winning and championships are the ones that will define that. For Tom Brady, all of those numbers that he has and that he’s compiled speak volumes. You don’t need me to echo them.”
Next up for the Patriots are the Ravens, a rematch of last season’s AFC championship game and possibly Ray Lewis ‘ last game before retirement.
“There’s something to be said about playing against Ed Reed  and Ray Lewis,” Esiason said. “They may have slowed down, they may be a little bit different, but you know what, they’re smart, they’re cagey, they’ve been through this a million times. And they finally have a quarterback [Joe Flacco ], it looks like to me, that is becoming the difference-maker that everybody was hoping he would be maybe a couple of years ago down in Baltimore — just a little bit late, but certainly has played well now in the playoffs two years in a row.”
The Ravens’ win in Denver marked the eighth time Peyton Manning  lost his team’s opening playoff game. However, Esiason said the blame does not start with Manning.
“There are so many different things there,” Esiason said, noting the defensive miscues and questionable coaching decisions. “I understand that Peyton Manning is bigger than life. He’s been nothing but a true professional, he’s been a great ambassador. He never took a swipe at Tim Tebow ; that’s for the rest of us to do. He’s the ultimate professional. And anybody, in any way, shape and form, brings up the discussion that Tim Tebow is 1-0 with the Denver Broncos  in the [opening game of the] playoffs and Peyton Manning is 0-1 is flat-out ignorant and doesn’t understand how important and how great Peyton Manning is. He’s going to win his fifth MVP — that’s unprecedented in this league.
“I feel bad that he lost. I would have loved to have seen a Tom Brady-Peyton Manning game in Denver. Unfortunately for him, he’s going to have to deal with all this criticism now over the next 6-7 weeks, and he’ll pick himself back up and he’ll have the Broncos right back in the playoffs next year.”
“This is a really good [49ers] football team,” Esiason said. “The question is, now Colin Kaepernick‘s got to go on the road [to Atlanta]. The last time he played on the road was against Seattle; he did not look very good. So that’s always going to be the wild card, when you travel with a young quarterback, and somebody who didn’t play that well on the road the last time.
“So, I like San Francisco and New England. I thought yesterday was going to be closer than the Monday night game, and it was a little bit. But I think you could see the difference between the Patriots and the Texans is clearly at the quarterback position. And certainly it showed itself yesterday.”