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How things have changed for the Patriots this season

Remember when it was early in the season, the New England Patriots had just signed Antonio Brown,and we all had visions of a perfect season?

Flash forward to Week 16, and the Patriots still have yet to clinch the AFC East, have had all sorts of off-field issues – not the least of which is the national image after the recent video taping mishap – and a Hall of Fame quarterback that looks like he’s closer to induction than raising another Lombardi Trophy.

“We haven’t played our best football yet,” Patriots back James White said, “so that’s what we’re trying to go there and do with two games left vs. two division opponents (Buffalo today and Miami next Sunday), and they’re both going to be tough games for us.”

And White acknowledged today is different. The Patriots haven’t had a big AFC East game in awhile. It will still be tough for Buffalo to get the title even if they get an upset win today because the Patriots have to lose next week at home vs. Miami (not happening) for them to have a chance.

But a game like this might be what the doctor ordered for the Patriots.

“It’s great for us,” White said. “I think it will be a great challenge (for) everybody to pick that intensity up that much more and pay more attention to detail.”

Well, the details show it’s been a very different Patriot season, with a lot going on, anything off the field not being good.

If you want perfection, look here – a 7-0 Week 15, the first one of the long season. Let’s try again for Week 16:

PATRIOTS 23,BILLS 10

The Bills have clinched a playoff berth, and for a team that’s not used to it, expect a letdown. Plus, there’s no way Buffalo QB Josh Allen will be able to put up enough points against this New England defense. Don’t be mistaken, the Patriots offense will have problems too, but we expect their defense to put up a score. Get your hat and T shirt as the latest holiday gift.

STEELERS 17, JETS 16

Was toying with the idea of an upset here, and it’s still no Duck Dynasty with Pittsburgh as the better QB at MetLife Stadium will clearly be New York’s Sam Darnold. Le’Veon Bell may be motivated, to do great things against his former team, but the Jets just haven’t used him enough, and Pittsburgh needs the win.

RAVENS 34, BROWNS 21

As usual, teams that put together All-Star teams in the off-season have no stars next to their spot in the standings come playoff time. The Ravens are rolling and expect Lamar Jackson to beat Baker Mayfield at his own game. It’s called winning.

COWBOYS 24, EAGLES 13

Dallas blew Philly out in Texas because it’s the better team. The Eagles struggle on offense, and while their defense is good, Dak Prescott is a better QB than Carson Wentz at this point in their careers. Good enough to clinch the NFC East.

VIKINGS 27, PACKERS 23

Home team advantage, although beware of Aaron Rodgers in a dome on a Monday Night. The Vikes have one of the best defenses in the NFC – likely the league – and it should come through to make the NFC North race go down to the last week, if Kirk Cousins doesn’t turn the ball over.

TITANS 27, SAINTS 24

We told you ESPN’s Joe Tessitore would be loud and pround Monday night, right? But this time Drew Brees has a letdown game as the desperate Titans use a ball control game to keep the ball away from Brees and adding more than a TD pass or two to that record to stay ahead of Brady. Big test for Tennessee coach Mike Vrabel, we think he’ll pass it. Yeah, we’re getting daring after our perfect week.

TEXANS 30, BUCCANEERS 21

Up and down the field they may go. Huge road win for Houston last week and the Texans will keep the train rolling. The Good Jameis Winston showed up last week in Detroit, throwing for 458 yards. That means the Bad Winston is due to show up this week along with a bad Tampa defense

LAST WEEK: 7-0

SEASON: 68-38

Tom King may be reached at 594-1251 or tking@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow King on Twitter (@Telegraph_TomK).