The New England Patriots, along with the New York Jets, got their bye week at the perfect time. After an up and down first half to the 2012 season, the Patriots sat at home basking in the glory of two straight wins, the most recent was a shellacking of the Rams in London.
The team has been fighting several injuries to key players; a week off offers players some extra time to heal, as well as preparing for their next foe: the basement dwelling Buffalo Bills.
The biggest names among the injured ranks include Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, and Patrick Chung. Other names of note are Steven Gregory, Ras-I Dowling, Brandon Bolden, as well as a host of others either out or at least questionable. Needless to say, an extra week is a welcome break for the whole squad. While every team has its share of the injury bug, the Patriots have some of their best players limping along into the second half.
The addition of Aqib Talib has Patriot Nation buzzing; that is, when he comes off of his suspension. His presence on the team is a serious upgrade no matter how you slice it. The main question will be whether Bill and co. can keep him in line long enough to make an impact going forward. All things considered, this bodes well for a still struggling secondary.
In contrast, the Jets took two hard losses to division foes going into their bye week. And they have more serious problems than the Patriots at this point in the year. We are hearing the calls for Rex Ryan's head on a platter, along with some significant playing time for their latest novelty-- Tim Tebow. Fans want to know: Is Tebow more than a side show in New York? What happened to the Heisman Trophy winning QB? New York needs to answer these questions if they have even a shred of hope to salvage any dignity the last half of 2012.
And we cannot overlook the inter-division play thus far; this week alone saw the two active teams in the AFC East lose important games at a time when a run for the division lead would have been pivotal. The Bills were beaten by a clearly superior team in the Houston Texans, while Miami lost to the mediocre Colts.
The good news is that the Patriots now sit securely on top of the division with three of the next four games against the rest of the division. With solid play, this means a very good chance of a long winning streak going into arguably their toughest foes of the season: the Niners and the Texans.
The Patriots are riding a mini streak already, giving them a leg up as the playoff picture begins to come into focus. The Patriots are exactly where they want to be, although to hear Bill Bellichick tell it, there is much that still needs work.
And work they will. Coach Bellichick is a full throttle kind of coach and his players will not be allowed to take it easy any given week. Tom Brady, most of all, knows what this season means to the team and his illustrious career. After their second heartbreak loss to the New York Giants, nothing short of a fourth ring for Bill and Tom will suffice.