Notice to the rest of the NFL: The Patriots have it figured out now. Good luck.
It took a lot longer than usual, but we’re finally at the point where the Patriots always seem to wind up: It’s late November and they’re playing their best football of the season after Sunday’s 33-8 dismantling of the Raiders in Mexico City.
Early in the season, this two-game stretch coming out of the bye week looked daunting. There was the visit to Mile High, which almost never goes well, followed up with a trip to Mexico to take on the latest version of “The Next Team To Topple the Patriots’ AFC Dynasty,” the Oakland Raiders.
The result? Patriots 74, Opponents 24.
The Patriots are now 8-2 and winners of six straight. They're tied with the Steelers for the top spot in the AFC entering Week 12. The two teams meet in Week 15 at Heinz Field (we’ll get to that in a minute).
But let’s go back first. Even the most passionate “In Bill We Trust” Patriots fans would be hard-pressed to admit they saw this coming. There was the embarrassing 42-27 loss to the Chiefs at home to open the season. Then, New England survived a three-point win over the Texans. After that, there was the uncomfortable 33-30 loss at home (again) to the Panthers to start the season 2-2. Things didn’t get a whole lot better in the next two games as the Patriots survived visits to the Buccaneers and Jets.
The defense, finally, showed up in Week 7 to shut down Matt Ryan and Julio Jones in the fog. But the offense, which averaged 32.3 points the first four weeks, averaged “just” 21.3 points before the bye week.
You were beginning to wonder if this team would ever put it together on either both sides of the ball.
Then the bye week happened, and the Patriots have looked like the Patriots again. How did that happen?