Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe believes this season has been Bill Belichick's finest coaching job of his career. Shaughnessy writes that with so many players lost to injury this year along with the Aaron Hernandez situation, Bill has had to lead his Patriots through more challenges than ever. He goes as far to say that 2013 has been an amazing season for the Patriots, with so many games coming down to the wire. Sunday's win against the Ravens, however, may have been the most impressive win of all.
"And no matter what happens now, this 2013 season will stand as Bill Belichick's masterpiece; the Hoodie's Sistine Chapel," writes Shaughnessy.
According to Jeff Howe, the key to the Patriots success are turnovers. In today's edition of the Boston Herald, Howe writes that the two most important stats for New England are takeaways on defense and success in the redzone. In Sunday's win at Baltimore, the Patriots succeeded in both of those categories. They finished the game with four takeaways and scored three touchdowns in three trips inside the redzone. Since 2001, New England is 69-1 when they have forced three or more turnovers and 163-40 when they have forced at least one turnover.
"Because injuries have battered their personnell, the takeaways have been a necessity to sustaining momentum," explains Howe. "And that was evident during a 10-quarter stretch against the Texans, Browns, and Dolphins when the defense failed to record a turnover."
Though Mr. Howe believes turnovers and red zone offense will decide New England's fate, Ben Volin of the Boston Globe argues that the running backs are the key to the team's success. Despite playing without it's starting left and right tackles, the Patriots offensive line paved the way for running backs Stevan Ridley and LaGarrette Blount on Sunday. That's the pattern that Volin believes the Patriots will need to use in order to have success in the playoffs.
"That's the mentality this offense will need come January. Wheather the playoff games are at home, Denver, or Cincinnati, weather could be a factor," writes Volin. "And Given the team's inconsistencies at wide receiver, and the injury to Rob Gronkowski, it will be more important than usual to establish the running game.
After the Patriots impressive 41-7 win over the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, Richard Langford listed the Patriots as the league's fourth best team on Bleacher Report's weekly power rankings.
"No team made a bigger impression in Week 17 than the New England Patriots," claims Langford. "If the Patriots defense can keep forcing turnovers, this team is going to be very tough to beat."
Langford has New England as the best team in the AFC ahead of the Denver Broncos who need only one more win in the final week of the season, to lock up homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. The three best teams according to Langford are the Seattle Seahawks, Carolina Panthers, and the San Francisco 49ers (in that order).
As Bill Belichick and Patriots prepare to take on the Buffalo Bills in the final week of the NFL season, Field Yates listed a few key Bills to know in an article he posted on ESPN Boston this morning. On the offensive side of the ball, Yates listed RB Fred Jackson, LT Cordy Glenn, and rookie WR Robert Woods as players "to know." Defensively, LB Kiko Alonso, CB Stephon Gilmore, and CB Nickell Robey were highlighted. All three defensive players are in their second year and are developing into good players, specifically Kiko Alonso who was born just west of Boston in Newton, Massachusetts. Through 15 games, Alonso has 145 tackles, 4 interceptions, and 2 sacks.