Despite the Patriots beginning their season by underachieving their way to a 3-3 record, they remain right in the thick of things in the race for a bye week in the AFC playoffs. Fortunately for them, they are far from the only team off to a slow start on their quest to capture the Lamar Hunt trophy.
Currently just two teams in the AFC are sitting with winning records, the Baltimore Ravens and the Houston Texans. After their 1 p.m. matchup with each other Sunday, the Patriots will sit just one game back of the loser of that matchup for the No. 2 seed as long as they take care of their own business against the New York Jets.
This is not a year where teams need to go 14-2 to capture home field advantage throughout the playoffs. This is clearly a down year for the NFL, particularly in the American Football Conference.
This is a season in which the "any given Sunday" mentality is shining through, as almost every matchup has the potential to go either way. The undefeated Atlanta Falcons welcomed the 1-3 Raiders to town last Sunday and were fortunate to even walk away with a victory. This is a year in which nobody can be taken for granted.
With the playing field leveling out and the league looking truly wide open, a team with as much talent as the New England Patriots will have a good a chance as any when the playoffs get underway in January.
The Patriots find themselves in rare territory, but territory that could work in their favor. At 3-3, they will not be the toast of the league, but they could find themselves quietly finishing the season with a 12-4 record to set themselves up nicely for a bye week.
With the Texans and San Francisco 49ers looking like the only threatening games remaining on the schedule, Tom Brady and friends could very well go on a win streak for the next two months leading into those December match ups in Foxboro.
People giving up on the team may point to the secondary, which is of course a major concern and illustrated such with its demoralizing performance in Seattle Sunday. The truth of the matter is that the team was missing both starting safeties at the end of the game when Russell Wilson threw the game-winning strike.
Patrick Chung and Steve Gregory are not Pro Bowlers, but they are more of a steadying presence than rookies Tavon Wilson and Nate Ebner, who were forced to play full-time to finish off the Patriots' loss.
The Patriots have now lost three games by a combined four points to teams that are collectively 13-5. New England faithful may think the sky is falling, but the Patriots need to sit back and realize they are sitting a lot prettier than they may think.