Former NFL MVP labels red-hot Patriots as one of AFC's top two teams

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Too bold? Former NFL MVP labels Patriots as one of AFC's top two teams originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The New England Patriots are arguably the hottest team in the NFL right now.

After starting the season 2-4 without any wins against quality opponents, the Patriots have shown plenty of improvement over the last month, highlighted by a four-game win streak that has vaulted them up the AFC standings and into the No. 6 seed.

The Patriots' recent success has many fans and even some experts making bold predictions on just how far this team can go. We're even seeing some Super Bowl talk.

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Former NFL MVP winner Boomer Esiason is among the experts singing the Patriots' praises after Sunday's dominant 45-7 win over the Cleveland Browns.

"New England, right now, the way that they’re playing, is either the No. 1 or No. 2 team in the AFC," Esiason told WEEI's "The Greg Hill Show" on Monday morning.

Saying the Patriots are one of the AFC's top two teams sounds pretty bold, but is it actually?

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Let's look at the five teams ahead of the Patriots in the standings.

The Tennessee Titans are 8-2 and lead the conference, but their best player, superstar running back Derrick Henry, is expected to miss several more weeks with an injury. The Titans are good, but not a team that's unbeatable by any means. They actually play the Patriots at Gillette Stadium in Week 12.

The Buffalo Bills are the No. 2 seed and a really good team on both sides of the ball, but they did lose 9-6 to the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars two weeks ago. The Patriots still play the Bills twice before the end of the regular season, and those matchups likely will decide who wins the AFC East division.

The Baltimore Ravens are the No. 3 seed. They scored 10 points in a loss to the struggling Miami Dolphins last Thursday. The Kansas City Chiefs are the No. 4 seed and they've looked more beatable this season than at any point during Patrick Mahomes' career. New England's defense would be a tough test for K.C.'s high-powered offense.

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The Pittsburgh Steelers are just ahead of the Patriots in the wild card chase as the No. 5 seed. The Steelers are a mess at quarterback and couldn't even beat the winless Detroit Lions at home in Week 10. No one is scared of Pittsburgh.

The point is that the AFC lacks a dominant team. The Patriots absolutely could compete for the AFC title with an accurate quarterback in Mac Jones, an efficient rushing attack and a defense that ranks among the league's best.

There's still a good chunk of the regular season remaining, but if you're a Patriots fan, you have to be pleased with the team's improvement over the last few weeks.