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For some reason, everyone seems to assume Brown will assimilate into The Patriot Way and we’ll never have another helmet tantrum, phone call published, missed meeting or any other thing that drove Brown out of Pittsburgh and Oakland. Many people seem to think Brown is a mastermind who orchestrated a move to the Patriots. Maybe he’s just incapable of being a professional and happened to land on his feet because he’s supremely talented. He could have an All-Pro season. He could be cut by Saturday. If we’ve learned anything about Brown over the past few weeks, it’s that we don’t know what he’ll do next.
Here’s another point: The Patriots don’t need him. They absolutely rolled the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night without him. The offense is very good and the defense might be elite. The offensive line is banged up and not too deep, but other than that, what weakness does this team have?
It’s way, way too early to compare this team to the 2007 Patriots, perhaps the most dominant team in NFL history. Even if we put Josh Gordon and Brown in the Randy Moss and Wes Welker roles, it would be hard to replicate a team that went 16-0.
But when you look at the schedule, it doesn’t appear they’ll lose for a while. Here are the Patriots’ games through the end of October:
Week 2, at Miami
Week 3, vs. New York Jets
Week 4, at Buffalo
Week 5, at Washington
Week 6, vs. New York Giants
Week 7, at New York Jets
Week 8, vs. Cleveland
Find the loss in that group. Buffalo, which has a very good defense, could give New England problems. Maybe. Any other loss on that schedule would be a big upset.
The Patriots play at Baltimore and at Philadelphia, with a bye week in between, to start November. There are games against the Cowboys, Texans and Chiefs after that. The Patriots aren’t going 16-0 again. But it’s probably best to prepare yourself for them heading into November undefeated. And it’s hard, after watching them destroy the Steelers 33-3, to imagine they lose more than three times this season.
Things can change in the NFL. Injuries can pile up. The Patriots get each team’s best effort, and most clubs are capable of an upset. This is where we should mention that Tom Brady is 42 and bound to hit the wall at some point, but it seems foolish to keep predicting that. He looked great on Sunday night and has a ridiculous set of receivers to throw to. Just imagine if Rob Gronkowski comes back.
Let’s pencil in the Patriots for an 8-0 start, then a loss either at Baltimore or Philadelphia to end the 16-0 talk. But the schedule as a whole is soft and 13-3 or better seems like a reasonable expectation (thanks a lot, AFC East). If Brown is finally interested in playing football, New England’s ceiling goes even higher. If the road to the Super Bowl is going through anywhere but Foxborough in January, the Chiefs or someone else will need a nearly perfect season.
It’s not too early to start worrying about the Patriots crashing your Super Bowl party again. They might be as good as ever.
Here are the NFL Power Rankings after Week 1 of the season:
32. Miami Dolphins (0-1, Last week: 32)
It could have been worse. The 1973 Saints lost their opener to the Falcons 62-7. That’s the biggest Week 1 blowout ever. But Miami’s 49-point loss is sixth on that list, according to Pro Football Reference, and the biggest season-opening loss for any NFL team since 1989. Those 1973 Saints improved a lot by Week 2, however, losing in a much closer 40-3 game at Dallas.
31. Washington Redskins (0-1, LW: 29)
Do you get the feeling the first 20 minutes of Sunday’s opener, when the Redskins led the Eagles 17-0, might be the high point of this Washington season? Now the Redskins move forward without injured running back Derrius Guice, who was a potential bright spot this season. It’s not going to get much better.
30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1, LW: 27)
Bruce Arians defended Jameis Winston, saying the first two interceptions weren’t his fault (h/t to Greg Auman of The Athletic). That’s fine; not all interceptions are a quarterback’s fault. But it doesn’t explain why Winston was terrible the entire game against the 49ers.
29. New York Giants (0-1, LW: 28)
Evan Engram had a monster 11-catch, 116-yard game. Saquon Barkley is still great. The Giants have offensive talent and moved the ball. They won’t be great, but perhaps more competitive this season than they were in Week 1.
28. Arizona Cardinals (0-0-1, LW: 31)
Kyler Murray was 9-of-25 for 70 yards through three quarters. He had 238 yards in the fourth quarter and overtime as the Cardinals rallied to salvage a tie. So, which Murray is it going to be moving forward?
27. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1, LW: 19)
Maybe Gardner Minshew is Kurt Warner 2.0. Realistically, an entire organization had the air sucked out of it with one Nick Foles injury. It’s not like the season was over less than a quarter into it, but all the realistic expectations changed in an instant. That’s how fast things can change in the NFL.
26. Denver Broncos (0-1, LW: 21)
As far as openers go, that was downright disheartening. The offense looked terrible and the defense made absolutely nothing happen. This could be a long season, if that’s a preview.
25. Cincinnati Bengals (0-1, LW: 30)
Not all losses are the same. The Bengals went into a tough Seattle stadium, without A.J. Green, after some hits to the offensive line, lost Joe Mixon to a sprained ankle and still almost won. They outgained Seattle 429-233. It was a tough loss but the Bengals should feel good after one game of the Zac Taylor era.
24. Detroit Lions (0-0-1, LW: 25)
The Lions scored early in the fourth quarter to take a 24-6 lead. It takes a lot of effort to blow a game after taking a lead like that, especially against a rookie head coach and rookie quarterback making their debuts. If you still believe Matt Patricia is the right coach for the Lions, the appropriate follow-up question is, why?
23. Oakland Raiders (1-0 LW: 26)
Maybe they’ll miss Antonio Brown as the season goes on, but Tyrell Williams looks like he can be a dangerous No. 1, and tight end Darren Waller is a nice secondary piece. Even better, the defense looks a lot better. That had to be one sweet win after all of the nonsense of the past few weeks.
22. New York Jets (0-1, LW: 20)
Adam Gase on Monday, when asked about playing time decisions: “That’s the beautiful part about being the head coach, I can basically do what I want.” Things are going well in Gase’s first season in New York.
21. Atlanta Falcons (0-1, LW: 17)
That was bad. Much worse than the 28-12 final would indicate. The Falcons can’t blame defensive injuries, as they did most of last season. They were overmatched in every way. It’s not the end of the world to lose to a good Vikings team on the road, but they need to play a lot better, and fast.
20. San Francisco 49ers (1-0, LW: 23)
You’d like to see more out of the offense, but a road win is good no matter how you get it. With Tevin Coleman injured, it’ll be fun to watch Matt Breida take over the starting role and never give it back.
19. Buffalo Bills (1-0, LW: 24)
Devin Singletary played most of the running back snaps Sunday, but had just four carries. He had 70 yards on those four carries. You have to assume the Bills will actually hand Singletary the ball more going forward.
18. Indianapolis Colts (0-1, LW: 18)
Marlon Mack had 174 yards and a touchdown against a talented Chargers defense. Jacoby Brissett isn’t Andrew Luck but he’ll be OK, and it’ll help a lot if Mack takes pressure off of him.
17. Cleveland Browns (0-1, LW: 9)
There’s no bigger overreaction in sports than the post-Week 1 NFL overreaction. We wait months for something to happen, and we draw sweeping conclusions based on one game. The Browns looked bad against the Titans. Their history should make you skeptical. Perhaps Freddie Kitchens was a terrible hire, or the offensive line is what will sink them. But let’s calm down first. This is still a superbly talented roster. The Browns had a bad game. It doesn’t mean they can’t be very good this season.
16. Carolina Panthers (0-1, LW: 15)
Don’t give up on the Panthers. It wasn’t a great Week 1 performance, but the Rams are good and the entire game might have been different if not for the bad backward lateral/fumble to D.J. Moore near their own goal line. The good news is Christian McCaffrey is still unstoppable.
15. Seattle Seahawks (1-0, LW: 13)
I wouldn’t feel great if I were the Seahawks. The Bengals thoroughly outplayed Seattle, and the Seahawks were fortunate to get a 21-20 win. Next week’s game at Pittsburgh will be telling.
14. Pittsburgh Steelers (0-1, LW: 11)
Hard to pull anything positive out of that Week 1 loss. I’m not yet buying that the Steelers have no offensive playmakers and are doomed. The Patriots were the much better team. If the Steelers can’t move the ball this week at home against Seattle? Then everyone can freak out.
13. Houston Texans (0-1, LW: 16)
How can you be a coach in the NFL and decide to give the Saints 9 free yards to set up a 58-yard field goal at the end of regulation? Why would that ever make sense?
I want to be sure I get the picture accurate. Here is the #Texans’ corner alignment on the play that gave up the yardage which allowed the field goal. Ted Ginn is in the slot. Why the corners aren’t in press with the safeties over the top, I’m not sure. pic.twitter.com/ktz2rI66bc
— Charles Robinson (@CharlesRobinson) September 10, 2019
12. Tennessee Titans (1-0, LW: 22)
Every year in Week 1, we see a result or two that looks crazy by midseason. This year, it could be “Titans 43, Browns 13.” But there were good signs — Marcus Mariota was turnover-free, the Titans have figured out they need to feature Derrick Henry, Delanie Walker is all the way back and they looked great with Corey Davis being shut out. I’ll need to see it again, but it was an impressive start.
11. Baltimore Ravens (1-0, LW: 12)
Presumably, Lamar Jackson won’t have a perfect passer rating all season. But he probably won’t have just 6 rushing yards too often either. Jackson doesn’t need to be a great passer. If Sunday is a sign he can be a good passer? He can be in the MVP conversation and the Ravens can win a Super Bowl. He can be the most dangerous weapon in the NFL, just like he was at Louisville. Now we see if his start was a product of facing a terrible Dolphins defense, or if the progress is legit.
10. Chicago Bears (0-1, LW: 6)
Matt Nagy might regret not using rookie running back David Montgomery or receiver Anthony Miller (who might still be working back from injury) in the opener. It was not the best game plan for Week 1, but he’s a good coach and he’ll figure it out.
9. Minnesota Vikings (1-0, LW: 14)
Among all the Week 1 headlines, the Vikings’ dominant performance got overlooked. They trashed the Falcons on both sides of the ball. Kirk Cousins threw only 10 times because the Vikings didn’t need any more. Maybe the Vikings’ hype just came a year too early. They looked as good as anyone outside of New England in the opening week.
8. Dallas Cowboys (1-0, LW: 10)
Dak Prescott was great, Ezekiel Elliott will be back to his normal workload soon, Amari Cooper is still a big-play threat and Jason Witten can play a role. And offensive coordinator Kellen Moore seems to be a significant upgrade. But the biggest difference might be second-year receiver Michael Gallup. His seven-catch, 158-yard game was a continuation of an impressive preseason. His breakout is going to be massive for the Cowboys.
7. Los Angeles Chargers (1-0, LW: 7)
Austin Ekeler’s 154-yard game won’t cause the Chargers to go back to the negotiating table with Melvin Gordon. Even if Gordon reports, Ekeler is going to have a role. He can play.
6. Green Bay Packers (1-0, LW: 8)
The win was great and the defense looked much improved. But was the offensive malaise because of the Bears’ defense, or a tough adjustment to Matt LaFleur’s scheme? We’ll probably find out when they play the Vikings next.
5. Philadelphia Eagles (1-0, LW: 5)
I’m willing to excuse the slow start to not playing anyone in the preseason. It was scary, but by the end Carson Wentz had 313 yards and three touchdowns and the Eagles got a win. They’re fine.
4. Kansas City Chiefs (1-0, LW: 4)
The offense looked great as usual, but it’s concerning that Jaguars rookie Gardner Minshew, a sixth-round pick, went 22-of-25 for 275 yards after replacing Nick Foles. We’ll give the Chiefs a pass for now, but it doesn’t ease concerns about their defense this season.
3. New Orleans Saints (1-0, LW: 3)
It’s not the best news that they so easily gave up 75 yards to Deshaun Watson in the last minute, but Watson will do that to plenty of teams before he’s done. The good news: Drew Brees is still a top-five all-time quarterback.
2. Los Angeles Rams (1-0, LW: 2)
There weren’t a lot of big plays in the Rams’ passing attack. Jared Goff averaged less than 5 yards per attempt. L.A. had some issues passing late last season, so it’s worth keeping an eye on.
1. New England Patriots (1-0, LW: 1)
The Patriots won in a rout with Sony Michel getting 14 yards on 15 carries. It’s probably safe to assume he’ll be much better going forward, like the Patriots’ offense needs any more help.
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