In the name of Tebow

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In the name of Tebow

Yesterday in DC, the Pats won their fifth straight game, yet there remains a healthy level of uneasiness around New England.

For the second week in a row, the Pats looked far-from-perfect against a God awful team. The offense was inconsistent. The secondary was porous. They failed to crush a very crushable opponent.

While there's no such thing as a bad win in the NFL, there are inspiring wins, and for the second straight week, the Pats weren't even close. As a result, less than a month before the playoffs, we're not sure where to set the bar. We still don't know if they're good enough.

That's beyond frustrating, not something to which we're accustomed. But then again, is it any surprise?

We knew what was in store when the Pats kicked off this last leg of the season.

In short: A lot of games against really bad teams.

In slightly longer: Very few opportunities for the Pats to prove themselves.

And that's exactly how it's played out. But through all the frustration, they've still a) won games and b) stayed relatively healthy. What else can you ask for? What were you really going to learn from them beating the Colts and Redskins?

(Devin McCourty was clearly favoring his shoulder down the stretch yesterday, and Jerod Mayo didn't look great coming off the field after the game-clinching interception, so that could change. But for now, I'll remain optimistic.)

So yeah, I'm not worried yet. I'm not booking hotel rooms in Indianapolis, but anything's still possible.

Through 13 games, the Patriots defense has allowed 30 points only once. Meanwhile, yesterday marked the 10th time the offense has scored 30. I know it's not that easy, or even close, but read that again. Things aren't that bad. While the last few weeks have been uneventful and uninspired, the Pats are still 10-3. They're still one of only three or four teams with a chance of winning the AFC. And let's be thankful for that.

But more than anything questionable segue alert let's be thankful for Tim Tebow.

Not for his inspiration, charity and unquestionable healing powers. Not for his ridiculous comebacks and mind-blowing post game interviews.

But for injecting life back into the Patriots season.

For most of this year, we looked at this Sunday's matchup with Denver in the same light as the other December cake walks. Indianapolis, Washington, Denver, Miami and Buffalo. Some were better than others, but there was no real distinction. At best, they were just different kinds of garbage.

But thanks to all that Tebow's accomplished these last few months, the Patriots now have an unexpected challenge. There's finally something to prove.

Certainly Denver's not perfect. There are many ways to question and discredit this amazing run. Regardless, they've won seven of eight. They have a strong defense, the NFL's No. 1 rushing attack and an unbelievable home field advantage. By beating the Broncos, the Pats can make statement that we never imagined would be there. Or they can lose, and go a long way to reinforcing some of our fears.

Either way, for the first time since Week 10 against the Jets, Patriots fans have something to look forward to.

Tebow Week begins . . . now.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Report: Marchand agrees to eight-year extension with Bruins

Report: Marchand agrees to eight-year extension with Bruins

The Bruins took care of their biggest priority today as they reached agreement with Brad Marchand on an eight-year contract extension, according to several reports.

PROFILE: Joe Haggerty's preseason look at Brad Marchand

Elliotte Friedman reports Marchand has agreed to an eight year, $49 million extension ($6.125 million per season) that will effectively allow him to finish his career in Boston.

It was felt the Bruins would have been playing with fire if they allowed Marchand -- a 37-goal scorer last year -- to start the season unsigned, especially after he ripped up the World Cup of Hockey competition on a line with Patrice Bergeron and Sidney Crosby. Bruins president Cam Neely told CSN a couple of weeks ago that Boston was aiming to get the deal done with Marchand prior to the start of the regular season. In fact, they managed to get it done before the start of even the preseason.

Marchand has consistently said that he wants to finish out his career with the Bruins, who drafted and developed him and with whom he turned into an elite player in the last couple of years. He’s clearly taking a hometown discount to stick with Boston.

This is what Marchand said to CSN on breakup day last April:

“I obviously love being a part of this organization, this city and this team, and I don’t think this team is done having some good runs. I would love to be a part of this organization for the rest of my career, but the reality is when you look around the league that it doesn’t happen for many guys. We’ll deal with it when the time comes.”

Well, the time came and Marchand put his money where his sometimes big mouth usually is. The Bruins agitator easily could have demanded a yearly salary of $7 million-plus in free agency.

Credit to Don Sweeney and Neely for closing the deal with Marchand, and ticking one very important thing off their checklist that will help make the Bruins great again.