People have climbed down off the Zakim. The orders for creamsicle No. 12 jerseys from the Boston area have somewhat subsided. It's a little easier to breathe again in New England, and it's not just because of the crisp autumn air.
The bleeding has stopped for the Patriots. After losing four-straight games and five of six to start 2-5, the Patriots have somewhat righted the S.S. Belichick with a two-game winning streak over the winless Jets and the Ravens (and I wouldn't completely rule out an implosion for them with visible dissension in the ranks on Sunday night and the Titans and Steelers up next).
The Patriots appeared to bottom out against the Broncos (that loss may keep them out of the postseason) and the 49ers, but nearly knocked off the Bills before the two-game winning streak.
The Patriots know exactly who they are right now, but that will not be good enough to close the season with the 6-1 record they'll likely need just to get into the postseason, not with the Cardinals coming here with 10 days to prepare (Arizona plays Seattle tonight in a great Thursday night matchup — make sure you behold Kyler Murray if you haven't already).
The Patriots still have some improving to do in the next few weeks in order to be playing their best football after Thanksgiving. Here are the top four things we would like to see from the Patriots.
1. Put Cam Newton to the test, starting Sunday.
Let's face it, the Patriots have won the past two weeks largely because they haven't turned the ball over — that's how small their margin for error is right now. That has largely involved putting Newton in a straight jacket to avoid his turnover-worthy plays, which include poor decisions and being late on his reads. How has Josh McDaniels turned it around?