Pats finally moving forward

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Pats finally moving forward

I wanted to write a little more about Tim Tebow this morning, but thats on hold because, well, Tebow wasnt the story yesterday in Denver.

The bigger news? The Patriots improved.

After back-to-back weeks spent running in place against the Colts and Redskins two of the least satisfying victories in recent memory the Pats strung together a performance that they can build on. That we can build on. That, for the first time in a while, has injected some much needed excitement and optimism into the NFL season.

Of course, the first few drives were concerning. Watching the Broncos running game dice the Pats 'D' like Sam Hurd carving up a kilo of coke, it was troubling. It's during stretches like that, which are a relatively familiar to this team, when we question if anything is possible. When all our insecurities about this defense are exposed. When we start to panic.

And that was certainly the case yesterday. It's hard to erase the memory of how the Patriots 'D' looked on those first few drives. The same way it's hard to forget the image of Roy Helu having his way in Washington or repeated bombs from Orlovsky to Garcon and Young to DeSean Jackson. Even with yesterday's victory, there exists legitimate concerns about this defense especially with the Andre Carter going down and this team.

But at the same time, given yesterday's impressive win against a tough team in an imposing atmosphere, there's no reason to put any restrictions on what the Pats can accomplish.

Why can't they reach the Super Bowl? They don't have to be the best team in Patriots history. They just have to be the best team in this AFC, a conference that features exactly zero dominant squads.

The Broncos are clearly beatable, regardless of where the game is played.

The Ravens are inconsistent and have only won two games on the road all season (at Cleveland and at St. Louis -- yikes).

The Jets have never been more dysfunctional under Rex Ryan, and that's saying something.

The Texans are finally living proof of a season's worth of awful luck.

The Steelers are still going strong, but Big Ben's hurt again. (Allegedly.)

I'm not saying that the Pats are perfect, obviously. Just that no one is. And if the Steelers lose tonight, at San Francisco (10-3), the Pats will be on the fast track to the No. 1 seed in the AFC. What more can we ask for? If that's not enough, what is?

As we learned the last two seasons, home field advantage isn't everything. But it sure beats the alternative. It still makes New England the favorites. And while New Orleans and Green Bay might present a greater challenge on the other side, we know (See: February 3, 2002 and February 3, 2008) that when is comes down to one game, anything actually is possible.

Likely? Maybe not. But after yesterday's performance in Denver, for the first time in a long time, the Patriots gave us legitimate reason to believe.

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