New England Patriots

The grave-dancing on the 9-5 New England Patriots has officially begun, and longtime rival Rex Ryan was among the first to join in on the fun Monday, absolutely crushing a weakened Patriots club on ESPN.

“They’re absolutely in trouble,” Ryan said on ESPN’s Get Up program. “I’ve been saying it for weeks now — this is not the same Patriots team. The reason why is simple: they’re older, they’re slower, and eventually Father Time catches up to you.”

The ‘Father Time’ refrain is a familiar one, and sung after nearly every single Patriots loss over the last four years.

And predictably, Ryan believes New England’s struggles’ with Father Time come back to their two most important pieces on offense (seriously, it would kill these guys to come up with something new and/or interesting).

“If you look at [Rob] Gronkowski, he’s running with a piano on his back. He’s not healthy,” Ryan said of the star tight end before making his way to the quarterback. “Tom [Brady], some of the throws we’ve seen, his feet aren’t even set.

“That is not the Tom Brady you’re used to seeing. To me, that is the thing. The rush is bothering him.”

Ryan’s criticism of Gronkowski comes on the heels of Gronk’s two-catch, 21-yard performance in the loss to the Steelers, but just eight days after the 29-year-old had arguably his best performance since Week 1, totaling 107 yards on eight catches in a 34-33 loss to the Dolphins.

The same can be said for the 41-year-old Brady, who had some obvious, rather bizarre, and undeniable struggles in Pittsburgh, but looked fantastic the week before in Miami.

Still, Ryan believes that the Patriots are indeed too old to survive without a bye.

“This team is older and slower and they are desperate for the [first-round] bye, and if they don’t get it, I think they are in trouble,” Ryan concluded.

In Ryan’s defense, the Patriots are 0-for-2 on Super Bowl runs in the Brady-Belichick Era when having to play on Wild Card Weekend, with their last experience in such a scenario coming back in 2009, when they lost to the Ravens.

So, at least Ryan has that going for his take.