FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The New England Patriots are 7-0, and have been No. 1 in ESPN’s Power Rankings for the last seven weeks. After a weekend off following Thursday’s convincing win over the Dolphins, the team returns to work to focus on their next game – Sunday at home against Washington.
Which remaining games look most challenging for the Patriots?
Here is one man’s opinion:
1. at Broncos (Sunday, Nov. 29) – The Patriots will be coming off a short week after hosting the Bills on ESPN “Monday Night Football” the week before. Denver’s defense might be the best in the NFL.
2. at Giants (Sunday, Nov. 15) – They put up 49 points in a loss to the Saints on Sunday, but also gave up 52. They land here because they are one of the few teams with an offense that creates matchup challenges and could keep the Patriots’ high-powered offense off the field.
3. at Jets (Sunday, Dec. 27) – In a 30-23 loss to the Patriots on Oct. 25, the Jets were competitive and led early in the fourth quarter before Tom Brady guided the shorthanded New England offense on an impressive fourth-quarter surge.
4. vs. Eagles (Sunday, Dec. 6) – A tough team to figure under coach Chip Kelly, as they have been up and down this season. Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels has good insight on Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford from their year together with the Rams in 2011.
5. vs. Bills (Monday, Nov. 23) – The Patriots took it to the Bills on Sept. 20 in a 40-32 win, as Rex Ryan’s undisciplined club didn’t respond well to a week of pregame hype. The Bills are coming off a loss to the Jaguars in London, and one might say they are at a crossroads of their season.
6. at Texans (Sunday, Dec. 13) – It’s been a disappointing start to the season for the 3-5 Texans. Their staff, led by former New England offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien and including the likes of Romeo Crennel and Mike Vrabel, has significant familiarity with the Patriots.
7. at Dolphins (Sunday, Jan. 3) – The Patriots just hammered them, 36-7, and this is the last game of the season. If the Dolphins don’t have anything to play for, it would further alter the dynamics, making this less of a challenge.
8. vs. Washington (Sunday, Nov. 8) – The teams held joint practices together last year and the initial thought is that the Patriots will focus on limiting the running game and putting the ball in quarterback Kirk Cousins’ hands to see if he can avoid the critical mistake.
9. vs. Titans (Sunday, Dec. 20) – Rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota looks like a promising talent to build around, but they will likely be out of the playoff picture at this point and still look like they have some significant steps to take in their rebuilding process.