The Patriots took care of business yesterday.
Thats probably the best and most simple way to put it.
They didnt do anything especially well. They didnt do anything especially poorly. There were no game-breaking highlights that youre dying to re-watch this morning (although it was nice to see Aaron Hernandez in the open field, and WelkerRidley both go over 1000 yards for the season). There's no one player particularly deserving of week-long media stoning (although it would be cool if Stephen Gostkowski chilled out on the Scott Sisson impression).
Basically, all the Pats did this week was go down to Miami and earn a solid, division road win against a solid NFL team.
Like I said, they took care of business.
At this point, what more can you ask for?
Were long past the audition stage of this NFL season. Were long past obsessing over the aesthetics of any victory. From here on out, there are no ugly wins or uplifting losses. Youre either good enough or youre not, and thats all that people will remember. That is, if they remember at all. But on Sunday, the Pats certainly set a positive tone.
For the third straight week, they took the field as the more talented team and actually played like it for the better part of 60 minutes. For the third straight week, they had nothing to gain (in the eyes of the fansmedia) and everything to lose against an inferior opponent, but still maintained an adderall-like focus. And while, individually, those three victories did little to change our perception of the Patriots, as a collective, those wins made an important statement. Today, New England not only stands at 9-3, but it's a 9-3 that you can believe in. A 9-3 that you can celebrate without an assembly line of buts and ifs.
But naturally, no one's celebrating. Not an admirable win over Miami. Not the 9-3 start. Not even the team's 10th AFC East title in the last 12 years.
Instead, we're already looking ahead to one week from today: Monday Night Football. Houston at New England. The latest and greatest Most Important Game of the Patriots season.
With a win, despite their tumultuous and exhausting 3-3 start, the Pats will be back within a game of the AFCs No. 1 seed (and would obviously hold the head-to-head tie-breaker over the Texans). With a win, if were being honest, the Pats wont have too much more to prove this regular season. Sure, seeding is important, and there will still be plenty to play for, but really, if they beat Houston on Monday night, expectations will officially burst through the ceiling. With a win, regardless of what happens the following Sunday against the 49ers, or in either of the final two games against Jacksonville and Miami, the Pats' Super Bowl aspirations will be certified beyond a reasonable doubt.
For what its worth: Despite the Texans' 11-1 record, their fourth-ranked offense, sixth-ranked defense, the fact that theyre undefeated on the road and have already handedly beaten both the Ravens and Broncos, the Patriots opened as 4.5 point favorites.
For what it's worth (part II): This is only the second time all season that Houston will enter a game as the underdog. The other time was in Week 10 at Chicago, and the Texans won 13-7.
For what it's worth (part III): No one cares.
At this stage, it's not about favorites and underdogs. It's not about style points. It's not about blow out victories or escaping by the skin of Vince Wilfork's belly. It's only about doing enough to win. It's about doing what the Patriots have for six straight weeks and counting.
It's about taking care of business.
And they've got nine weeks to finish the job.