The Pats past won't change the present

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The Pats past won't change the present

Heading into tonights showdown with the Texans, Tom Brady has a career record of 38-5 in December. He's also 12-4 on Monday Night Football. And as impressive as those records are, it's even better when you only consider games played in Foxboro where Bradys a career 22-1 in December and 4-1 on MNF.

Sorta strange that hes played 11 of his 16 Monday Night Football games on the road, no? Yes, yes it is. But that will be irrelevant once the ball goes up tonight. And really, so will the 38-5. So will the 12-4. So will the 22-1 and 4-1. So will anything and everything thats happened up until this point in time.

Truth is, while the Texans and Patriots recent histories could not fall farther apart on the spectrum of NFL success, tonight is about tonight. Tonight is about now. Tonight will tell us more about the present and future of the AFC than any game thats come before it regardless of month, location andor day of the week.

Unless the Patriots lose.

In that case, we'll find ways to justify what happened. We'll discover reasons to believe that the Pats still have a chance; that losing a prime time home game against Houston doesn't mean they can't eventually win a prime time playoff game in Houston. But that will all be speculation. In reality, tonight's outcome will define the rest of the regular season in the AFC.

If the Pats win, this is still their conference. Even if they lose next week to San Francisco. Even if they still have to travel to Houston in the postseason. Even if Denver's still getting better every week. With a win, the Pats will be everyone's pick. As I type, they're already favored to win the Super Bowl. They and the 49ers are both at 4-1, while the Texans and Broncos trail closely at 9-2. With a win, they'll take another leap. They'll be "the best team in the NFL."

A Patriots loss? And Houston is for real. This time, for really real. They'll have passed nearly every test that's been placed before them. They'll head into the playoffs with (most likely) home field advantage to go along with road wins in Denver and New England and a blow out victory over the Ravens. They'll be the favorites. Regardless of the fact that they've never experiences any kind of legitimate playoff success. Regardless of the fact that Matt Schaub has never even started a playoff game.

Unlike his QB counterpart, Schaub hasn't experienced any level of legitimate late-season success. While Brady's a career 38-5 in December, Schaub is 11-15. And as unimpressive as that record is, it's even worse when you only consider games played on the road where Schaub's a career 6-12 in December.

But tonight at 8:30, we'll throw out the past on both sides of the field, as we sit back and watch the future unfold.

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

Rookie Dak Prescott solid again, Cowboys beat Bears, 31-17

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Rookie Dak Prescott solid again, Cowboys beat Bears, 31-17

ARLINGTON, Texas - Maybe the Cowboys will be OK without quarterback Tony Romo this time. The future of the Dallas running game with Ezekiel Elliott looks pretty good, too.

Dak Prescott led scoring drives on all four Dallas possessions in the first half before throwing his first career touchdown pass in fellow rookie Elliott's first 100-yard game, and the Cowboys beat the Chicago Bears 31-17 on Sunday night to snap an eight-game home losing streak.

With his second straight win, Prescott doubled the number of victories the Cowboys (2-1) had in 14 games without the injured Romo over three seasons before the fourth-round pick showed up.

Prescott's first TD pass was a 17-yarder to Dez Bryant for a 31-10 lead in the fourth quarter, and he's up to 99 throws without an interception to start his career. Philadelphia's Carson Wentz has 102, and those are the two highest career-opening totals for a rookie in NFL history.

"Dak's handled every opportunity he's had right from the start really, really well," coach Jason Garrett said. "No different tonight."

Brian Hoyer had trouble moving the Chicago offense early with Jay Cutler sidelined by a sprained right thumb as the Bears fell behind 24-3 at halftime and dropped to 0-3 for the second time in two seasons under coach John Fox.

Making his 27th career start for his fourth different team, Hoyer was 30 of 49 for 317 yards - a good portion of that with the game out of each late in the fourth quarter - and threw for two scores to Zach Miller.

"We haven't played a complete game," Fox said. "This week was the reverse of what we've had. We played very poorly in the first half."

Elliott finished with 140 yards on 30 carries, including a 14-yard run when he hurdled safety Chris Prosinski. The Cowboys kept giving him the ball while trying to work the clock with a two-touchdown lead in the fourth quarter a week after he was benched because of two fumbles in a win over Washington.

"Made a lot of good runs tonight, a lot tough runs, a lot of NFL runs," Garrett said. "He's physically tough. He's mentally tough."

It didn't even bother Prescott that Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith missed just the second game of his six-year career after his back tightened up during the week.

Prescott was 19 of 24 for 248 yards in Dallas' first home win since last year's opener, which was a week before the first of two broken left collarbones that kept Romo out of 12 games last season.

Romo is expected to miss about another month after breaking a bone in his back in the preseason.

Prescott had one of three rushing touchdowns for the Cowboys, who have seven this season after getting eight all of last year, when they finished 4-12.

Because the Bears fell behind again, they couldn't do much with the running game. They had just 15 carries for 73 yards and lost leading rusher Jeremy Langford to an ankle injury in the second half.

Jets lose, Patriots guaranteed 1st place in AFC East when Brady returns

Jets lose, Patriots guaranteed 1st place in AFC East when Brady returns

When Tom Brady returns to the Patriots following his four-game suspension, his team will be in sole possession of first place in the AFC East.

That became the reality as soon as the Jets fell to the Chiefs in Kansas City on Sunday, 24-3. The Jets committed eight turnovers in the loss to fall to 1-2. 

The Bills and Dolphins each won their first games of the season on Sunday, taking down the Cardinals and Browns, respectively. 

With the Patriots record at 3-0 following their win over the Texans on Thursday night, and with all three of their AFC East rivals sitting on just one win thus far, even if Bill Belichick's club was to fall to Rex Ryan and the Bills in Week 4, it would still be alone atop the division.

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Surely the Patriots would like to have a zero in the loss column when Brady returns. Regardless, to be in first place when Brady's Deflategate punishment is finished -- and having achieved that mark with two different starting quarterbacks -- has to be a point of pride for the organization . . . and a source of agita for those who doled out the punishment.