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The Patriots are Back in First Place, and the Natural Order of Things Has Been Restored

Mitchell Leff. Getty Images.

Well that was not fun while it lasted. But at least now, finally, our long, regional nightmare is over. 

From the 2019 Patriots going 4-5 down the stretch (after an 8-0 start), to getting ditched by the greatest player ever to slide his head into a helmet, to missing the playoffs last year to a slow start to 2021 with a revamped roster led by a 23 year old rookie, to finally, this:

It certainly took long enough. But at long last Bill Belichick has brought balance back to the universe. All is as it should be. Everything is unfolding according to the Almighty's exquisite design. As His divine will ordains. Whatever pleases Jesus, and all that. 

And I think a great deal of credit is due to Patriots fans everywhere. Being out of first place in the AFC East is not a thing these people are used to. Certainly not the ones under the age of, say, 30. And so to have it last a season and a half has been excruciating. The 15 months from the beginning of 2020 until now have felt like an eternity. But they showed infinite patience, never lost hope, and believed with all their pea-pickin' little hearts that Mr. Kraft, Belichick, Josh McDaniels, Steve Belichick and the assemblage of talent they accumulated would figure this out, sooner or later. By our standards, it feels later. But again, we're not used to this sort of thing. To the other 31 teams and fanbases, who thought their days of being crushed under the mighty boots of this Dynasty were over forever, it has to feel altogether too soon. 

That is especially true for our good friends in the Bills Mafia. They had to truly believe that being atop the division standings looking at down at everyone else was going to be a permanent arrangement. Their new lot in life. Especially because that's what they spent all spring and summer being told. Even more so when they got off to a 5-2 start and the Pats were a dismal 2-4. But water seeks its own level. And so does the Belichick Epoch. And its level is first place. 

Not that being at the top of the AFC East standings on Thanksgiving is the goal. Not by a damned sight. This is just a necessary step on the path to restoring things they way they are meant to be. First you get there. Then you win the division clinch a home playoff game. Then you get the No. 1 seed in the conference, which is now the only way to clinch the bye week. And they're well on their way to that as well, thanks to next week's opponent Tennessee losing to a 1-8 Houston team they were favored over by double digits:

I'll have more about the numbers once all the weekend's games are over. But for now just note that Point Differential is one of the great measurements of excellence across all team sports. And that +123 for the Patriots is tops in the NFL. 

And the team that was supposed to become the next great power in the East just got smoked by a one-dimensional offense they simply could not stop. I mean, it's not like they were loaded up to stop Carson Wentz and Jonathan Taylor took them completely by surprise. The opposite. Their entire focus was on stopping the Colts ground game and Taylor ran over them like they were barely a speed bump in the mall parking lot. It's been trendy for the last dozen years or so to laugh at "You've got to be able to run and stop the run" as an outdated anachronism that has no place in today's NFL. But when you are loaded up to stop a rushing attack and get run over by it anyway? Well, it's still tackle football. And you just saw the results for yourself. 

You want a disclaimer about how there's still a long way to go and Buffalo and the Pats play twice next month and anything can happen? Fine. You have it. For the Bills and the rest of the AFC contenders, now is not the time for fear. But in the words of that other great supervillain Bane, that comes later.