Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com calls it a "five-game stretch that figures to define the Patriots' regular season."
Appropriate then that Reiss called upon opinionated former New England Patriots safety and NBC analyst Rodney Harrison to break down their upcoming schedule. I recommend you check out the dissection, which also includes comments from ESPN's Trent Dilfer.
The Patriots lead the AFC East with a 5-2 record but are about to face a series of difficult opponents: three within the division and two outsiders that are undefeated. The lineup:
Week 9: Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium.
Week 10: Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday night.
Week 11: New York Jets at Gillette Stadium.
Week 12: New Orleans Saints in the Superdome on Monday night.
Week 13: Dolphins at Land Shark Stadium on Sunday night.
Here is what Harrison had to say about the intradivisional matchups:
"Bart Scott and the Jets can say what they want to say, but the Dolphins could easily be 5-2 and with the Patriots at the top. They had both the Colts and Saints beat, so they've shown they can play with some of the big dogs. What they haven't shown is the ability to finish them, and that's why they're 3-4."
"Regardless of what goes on with the Jets, they always play the Patriots like it's a playoff game. These teams have a distinct dislike for one another. The Jets talk a lot, and that can put them in a vulnerable position where they have to perform. But they feel like they have the ingredients and the blueprint to get to Tom Brady. They'll pressure him and pressure him, which is how they came out and attacked him in Week 2. Yet the difference now is that Brady is not the same quarterback as he was in Week 2."