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New England Patriots

Nov 14, 2021; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick prior to the start of a game against the Cleveland Browns at Gillette Stadium. Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots are back. Fully, truly, all the way back. In terms of the wildly irrational and polarizing discussion surrounding them, anyway.

That kind of thing does go both ways. It’s still unrealistic to say they’re in the conversation to make the Super Bowl this season, because a rookie quarterback has never done that. It’s even crazier to suggest that Mac Jones is the best ever at anything. That ain’t fair to Mac Jones.

But it’s still even more wild that the Patriots are making all the right people angry again. It’s the best sign yet that they are back to the Patriots that terrorized the National Football League for 20 years under the ruthless, relentless Tom Brady-Bill Belichick regime.

Not only are the Pats blowing out talented opponents, but the competition is crumbling, too. The waves they’ve sent through the league in recent weeks seem to have caused some deterioration in the foundations of the Tennessee Titans and Buffalo Bills, both of which were thoroughly embarrassed during Sunday’s Week 11 slate. A day in which the Patriots didn’t play, because they got their latest dick-stomping out of the way on Thursday night against the Atlanta Falcons.

Buffalo slipped out of first place in the AFC East with their loss to the Indianapolis Colts, a wire-to-wire ass-kicking with a final score of 41-15. Not to be outdone, the Patriots’ next opponent, the Titans, came up woefully short in all areas in a 22-13 loss to the Texans (2-8), who entered the game with the worst record in the AFC and left with the worst record in the AFC.

Tennessee remains the No. 1 seed in the conference, but suddenly, that has a chance to be on the line in their Week 12 showdown with the Patriots in Foxborough. The Bills, meanwhile, plummeted to the seventh seed, with the Patriots now occupying the third spot in the conference.

Two key teams didn’t cooperate with the conference-wide helping of the Patriots. The Baltimore Ravens eked out a win over the Chicago Bears without Lamar Jackson to improve to 7-3. So they’ll need to lose in Week 12 for the Patriots and Titans to be playing for the No. 1 seed. The Pats currently own the tiebreaker over the Ravens, which is record against the AFC: the Pats are 5-1, while Baltimore is 4-3.

The Kansas City Chiefs are another team that looks like it’s back after a sluggish start. They’re now 7-4 after an impressive win over the Dallas Cowboys. But they’re 2-4 against the conference, so the Patriots have a good grip on the tiebreaker over them.

Bottom line: you can’t stress enough the importance of the Patriots’ next two games against the Titans and Bills. If they manage to win both games and head into their bye at 9-4 with tiebreakers over all their chief competition in the AFC … they’d be in the driver’s seat in the conference.

It’s incredible to talk about the Patriots this way after that 2-4 start, when the team struggled with inconsistency, poor ball security, and a lack of discipline. They’ve looked like a totally different team over the course of their five-game winning streak, which is now the longest in the league. And yet they’ve looked all-too familiar to anyone who’s closely followed Belichick over his time in New England.

Still a little much to be talking Super Bowl with this team, because you’d be banking on the unprecedented, which is irrational. But it certainly looks like the Patriots’ latest rebuild is already complete, and they’re just about America’s worst nightmare again. They’re taking care of their own business, and everything around them going their way to cosmic levels. Fans in New England are excited and invested, and everyone else is pissed.

Just like the good ol’ days.

MORE: Patriots-Falcons Ups & Downs: Defense carries the load in Atlanta

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Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @mattydsays. You can also email him at mdolloff@985thesportshub.com.