After a roller-coaster first half of the season, the Patriots have a long weekend to unwind before getting ready for the final stretch of the season. CSNNE.com's Phil Perry explains that the bye week is balancing act between getting rest and continuing to prepare for the upcoming games.
"On the one hand, they've played so well during their five-game winning streak that they may not want a break in their momentum," writes Perry. "On the other, they've played nine games, dealt with the unavoidable bumps and bruises that come along with that."
While many of the players will fly home and visit family during the bye week, the newcomers will still be plugging away at Gillette. Anthony Gulizia of the Boston Globe explains that for Akeem Ayers, Alan Branch, and Jonathan Casillas, the bye week provides a chance to get up to speed with the playbook.
"While Ayers has been called upon quite a bit since joining the Patriots, he still feels he needs to use the bye week to bury his nose in his playbook," says Gulizia. "Branch, meanwhile, hopes to work himself into game shape after nearly a two-month break from football."
The bye week also provides an opportunity for coaches and media alike, to look back and evaluate the team's performance through the first half of the season. Ron Borges graded the team's performance through the first nine weeks of the season and posted a mid-season report card in the Boston Herald. He gave Tom Brady and Darrelle Revis a B while Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman both received an A-.
"The improvement expected because of the arrival of Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner has been clear lately," writes Borges. "Revis, despite some critics, has been as advertised. If he isn't the best cornerback in the NFL, you don't have to go too far down the list to find him."
ESPN Boston's Mike Reiss says that this year's secondary is one of the best in Belichick's tenure in New England. Reiss compared this year's secondary group with the one from the 2003 Super Bowl team, which consisted of players like Rodney Harrison and Ty Law. He says it's too early to tell if this year's group is truly the best in the team's history, but they certainly have a chance.
"Where 2014 ultimately ranks is yet to be determined, but if the last two games are any indication, this deeper-than-any-other group has a chance to end up on top," believes Reiss.
The pairing of Revis and Browner has proved to be lethal the past two weeks against the Chicago Bears and Denver Broncos. The only thing missing at this point is a nickname. As opposed to the 'Legion of Boom' in Seattle, a friend of mine suggested the Patriots secondary should be referred to as the 'Legion of Bill'. I'd say it's a pretty fitting, but we'll see if it sticks.
James Christensen of the Bleacher Report posted a midseason Patriots rookie review to evaluate how the first year players have held up so far. Malcolm Butler, Dominique Easley, and Brian Stork have all had an impact this season, while Jimmy Garoppolo has looked promising in his first two NFL appearances.
"Although he is showing off against second-team competition at times, the future could not look brighter at the quarterback position," says Christensen. "Brady will probably keep him out of the spotlight for another year or two, though."
Speaking of Tom Brady, the Patriots' future hall of fame quarterback has been on fire the past five weeks, which has thrusted him into the MVP conversation. The USA Today updated their MVP Tracker this morning and Brady was at the very top ahead of DeMarco Murray, Andrew Luck, and Peyton Manning
"The two-time MVP is suddenly leading the conversation for additional hardware six weeks after questions arose wondering if his best days were behind him. Since that memorable (and forgettable) 41-14 blowout loss at Kansas City, the Pats are 5-0, and Brady has thrown for 1,601 yards and 18 TDs with just one INT."
Last night on Comcast SportsNet's "New England Tailgate," Steve DeOssie and Fred Smerles discussed whether Brady deserves to be leading the conversation at this point in the season. Both Smerles and DeOssie said that Brady has been the league's most valuable player over the past five weeks, but there's still a lot of football to be played.
"If they give a half-year MVP trophy, Tom Brady is absolutely that guy," said DeOssie. "Tom has always been Tom. Tom will be Tom, but we'll see how it pans out at the end of the season."