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

Malcolm Butler on Instagram: 'Nothing changed but the change'

Malcolm Butler on Instagram: 'Nothing changed but the change'

We haven't heard from cornerback Malcolm Butler as his future as a Patriot hangs in the balance after his visit with the New Orleans Saints last week.

Butler,  a restricted free agent who has yet to sign the $3.91 million tender offered by the Patriots, posted a photo Wednesday on Instagram with the cryptic message "Nothing changed but the change," which happens to be a lyric from a song titled "Could It Be" by rapper Nick Lyon. So, perhaps a change of teams is being referred to.

"Nothing changed but the change" #BLESSED

A post shared by Malcolm CB Butler (@mac_bz) on

More to come...

Goodell: NFL working on a way to reduce commercial breaks during games

Goodell: NFL working on a way to reduce commercial breaks during games

The NFL is acknowledging it has a time-management issue. Games are too long. Commercial are too frequent. And according to an email addressed to NFL fans, Roger Goodell is hoping to change that.

On Wednesday afternoon the commissioner explained the methods by which the league is hoping to improve the fan experience, most of which concern the presentation of games with as few interruptions as possible. 

"On the football side, there are a number of changes we are making to the mechanics and rules of the game to maintain excitement and also improve the consistency of our officiating," Goodell wrote. "For example, next week clubs will vote on a change to centralize replay reviews. Instead of a fixed sideline monitor, we will bring a tablet to the Referee who can review the play in consultation with our officiating headquarters in New York, which has the final decision. This should improve consistency and accuracy of decisions and help speed up the process.

"Regarding game timing, we're going to institute a play clock following the extra point when television does not take a break, and we're considering instituting a play clock after a touchdown. We're also going to standardize the starting of the clock after a runner goes out-of-bounds, and standardize halftime lengths in all games, so we return to the action as quickly as possible. Those are just a few of the elements we are working on to improve the pace of our game."

Goodell also mentioned that the NFL is working with its broadcast partners to reduce the frequency of commercial breaks during games. 

"For example," Goodell wrote, "we know how annoying it is when we come back from a commercial break, kick off, and then cut to a commercial again. I hate that too. Our goal is to eliminate it."

Goodell, team owners and executives will convene in Phoenix next week for the league's annual meetings where discussions about these potential changes could see meaningful progress.