My expectations for the Patriots vs. reality

Photo Courtesy of ESPN
Conor Frederick (@ConorJF1016)
Contributing Writer

Right now, the Patriots are sitting pretty at 7-2 (3-1 in the AFC East) going into the bye week. So far, their only losses have come against division rivals, the New York Jets, and the Cincinnati Bengals.

And they've done it without their top targets from last year.

Wes Welker and Danny Woodhead have moved on and Aaron Hernandez is facing murder charges. And tight end Rob Gronkowski did not play for the first 6 weeks of the season and the Patriots still found ways to win and they knocked some great teams, too. The wins against the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons come to mind. Both were huge wins against tough opponents. Of course, the first couple of games were ugly, as Tom Brady was still finding a rhythm with his rookie receivers, but the defense bailed them out.

Now it seems that there is an established rhythm with the young guns and Tom Brady is firing on all cylinders, as evidenced by the pounding of the Pittsburgh Steelers last weekend. And having Gronk back to 100% spells trouble for the league, because he's a top 5 tight end when fully healthy.

I'll be completely honest - my expectations were not that high before the season, and even after the first 2 or 3 games. I thought they'd still win the AFC East because we're in one of the weakest divisions in the league in my mind. I thought Miami might challenge us, with some of the moves they made, I still thought we'd be just good enough to edge them out. I knew the first few weeks would be tough, but I never expected them to gel like this. Aaron Dobson is finally finding his feet and so has Kenbrell Thompkins. Danny Amendola and Gronk look like they're finally ready to play every week and perform up to expectations. And the win against New Orleans is the highlight of the season so far, and that was a game I did not think we'd win.

Now, I'm a believer. I went from thinking this team wouldn't win a playoff game to thinking this team is a legitimate contender in the AFC. No promises, as the Pats will have to beat a loaded Denver Broncos team, but I think the Pats could beat anyone on their day. Including Denver.

Thoughts? Hit me up on Twitter (@ConorJF1016).