FOXBOROUGH — It feels good being a New England Patriots fan right now, doesn’t it?
Four in a row.
Mac Jones doing a remarkable, young Tom Brady impersonation.
And the defense coming around, finally.
The Patriots look, to be honest, a lot like we thought they’d look after Bill Belichick’s drunken sailor approach on the first day of free agency and later when Jones was “heisted” with the 15th overall pick in the NFL Draft.
And then Sunday happened, a blowout of epic proportions against a “good” team, the Cleveland Browns. At least they looked pretty good the week before in destroying the up-and-coming Cincinnati Bengals, 41-16.
It got even better on Monday and Tuesday, which should’ve been called “Patriots Days,” as the national pundits threw bouquet after bouquet on your Patriots.
It should be noted that even though the last few days felt like your Patriots were 8-2 or 9-1, they are 6-4.
Technically speaking, they’ve accomplished, well, nothing.
When Belichick was being asked a question, which started with “Six wins isn’t going to get you in the playoffs,” he stopped the questioner with a quick, biting reminder … “Nope!”
While this run feels and sounds familiar — the 2001 Patriots were 5-5 through 10 games, with a young, inexperienced, game-managing QB at the helm — there is a big difference.
The 2001 Patriots were on nobody’s Super Bowl radar, not even the AFC East radar as the Jets and Dolphins were 7-3 and, well, everyone thought, better.
The 2001 Patriots scared nobody, not even after they shocked the Pittsburgh Steelers, 24-21, in the AFC Championship game thanks to a Drew Bledsoe TD pass, a Troy Brown punt return and a blocked field goal/TD return.
The Patriots were 14-point underdogs despite running off eight straight wins before adding a ninth in New Orleans over the then-St. Louis Rams.
No such luck in 2021.
These Patriots are not going to catch that break, of being unsung.
This despite the fact that Brady is gone. So is Rob Gronkowski and Super Bowl MVP Julian Edelman.
In fact, the only offensive players on the 2018 Super Bowl championship team are Brandon Bolden, Brian Hoyer and David Andrews.
But that isn’t slowing down the optimism that, of course, centers around coach Belichick.
Despite the fact that the 2021 NFL is as weak at the top as its been since the 2011, when a mediocre New York Giants team beat a pretty good Patriots team in the Super Bowl, the Patriots need a lot of things to go their way.
The Patriots, because of this current four-game winning streak and the fact that Belichick is back to being a “genius,” are going to be hunted.
They will be treated like an 8-2 team by the opposition.
And let’s be honest, they had some big-time, embarrassing hiccups in September and early October because of their inexperience.
Belichick has already started the “We’re on to Cincinnati” mantra. He called Thursday’s foe, the Falcons, a very good team when, in fact, they are not even close to that despite their decent start (4-4).
He is careful not to give his rookie quarterback too many accolades, which was the exact opposite approach he had with a struggling Cam Newton last season.
Belichick is doing his “Belichick best” to keep this team humble, like a 6-4 team should be, while the national media treats them like bona fine contenders.
The schedule looks pretty good for the Patriots. There are three very tough games, including two with Buffalo and another with Tennessee. The Patriots can probably afford to lose two of them, but could be big-time players if they win two of them.
And it won’t be easy winning in Indianapolis (Dec. 19), Miami (Jan. 9) and maybe even Thursday night in Atlanta.
Maybe I’m part of the problem, calling them “Super Bowl contenders” after Sunday’s win due to the mediocrity everywhere in the NFL. But I couldn’t help it. I have eyes.
Belichick’s most difficult job going forward might not be X’s and O’s, it’s keeping this team focused and humble when everybody — me included — are telling them they might be great.
You can email Bill Burt at email@example.com.