What do the Buffalo Bills, Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers and Kansas City Chiefs have in common?

They are the beasts of the American Football Conference. and all of them aren’t that good.

I’m not going to put the New England Patriots on a pedestal as some “dream team,” but they are every bit in this “thing” in 2021 as those alleged “superteams” are.

After the debilitating loss at end to the Dallas Cowboys, a third-straight game in which the defense couldn’t finish the job, the Patriots were at crossroads.

Were they a “lottery” team, writing off 2021, and positioning itself for some stud linebacker or pass rusher?

Or could they, and their semi-expensive free-agent-loaded team find their way back to being the team most people thought – a pain-in-the-neck playoff team?

We may have found out the last three Sundays in destroying the Jets (54-13), but more importantly two road games against the L.A. Chargers and Carolina Panthers.

The Chargers and Panthers were not to be mistaken for “winners,” but both had been trending in the right direction.

Well, the Patriots controlled the Chargers after a bad start and yesterday they controlled the Panthers almost from the get-go.

We got our answer.

The Patriots are pretty good. They’re tough. and they’re not easy to play.

Notice I didn’t mention the quarterback, Mac Jones. He was an issue, at least when the game was in doubt in the first half. He had probably his worst game of his career.

But it didn’t matter. In fact, if you want to get technical, last week was much the same in the tough win over Chargers, other than a few nice third down completions.

His stats – 12 for 18, 139 yards, 1 TD, 1 int. – were exactly the way he played ... meh!

Jones, though, did complete a missile to Hunter Henry, a seven-yarder, the fifth game out of the last sixth that they’ve connected for a score.

This, though, was more about the team, the coaching, the defense, a fill-in running back (Brandon Bolden) nobody wanted doing most of the damage and a shutdown cornerback, J.C. Jackson, who stopped a touchdown and scored one, too.

You could say that it was Sam Darnold on the other side, and that’s true, but you had better bring up the fact the Panthers defense was one of the best in the NFL and it couldn’t stop the Patriots offense, even with a semi-struggling quarterback.

The Patriots ran the ball 39 times and threw 18 times. “Balance” was not needed in Charlotte.

The only troubling issues from this third-straight win were the head injuries to running backs Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson.

Now it’s on to the Cleveland Browns, which had a monster win in Cincinnati (41-16).

Now it’s onto “should they or shouldn’t they” with acquiring some instant offense in Odell Beckham Jr.

The Patriots are in position to be a good team, really good position.

With Bill Belichick, doesn’t that officially make your New England Patriots dangerous?

I’d say so.

You can email Bill Burt at bburt@gloucestertimes.com.

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