The Patriots defense has been on fire during the team's five-game winning streak, terrorizing opposing quarterbacks, forcing takeaways and generally not letting anyone get into the end zone against them. After a 2-4 start, the Pats D is a big reason why they're buzzing and now have a lock on the postseason.
"When we [were] down nobody was with us and everybody was like 'this is a bad team,'" said Matthew Judon on Tuesday. "We knew what we had in the locker room and we knew what we could do. So we just put our heads down, kept our head chest high and continued to work and that's what we've got to continue to do. We can't let where we are right now let us get complacent because it's November."
As the old refrain goes, the best teams play their best football after Thanksgiving and with Turkey Day just two days away, the Patriots have been rounding into form at the right time. Now it becomes about not just maintaining the level of play, but surpassing it.
"I have never been around here after Thanksgiving, so we're going to see," said Judon when asked about peaking after the Thursday holiday. "We just got to continue to prepare well and continue to fight and the things that we aren't doing well right now we got to get better at them quickly. That just says the season could be over very soon or it won't. And that's up to us. What we're doing, how we're preparing, we just got a put that much more focus and detail behind it and continue to go forward."
"Obviously it's something that we believe here," said Dont'a Hightower of the post-Thanksgiving mentality, adding of the team's recent spat of success, "It feels good knowing, just buying in and seeing the process work. The execution of the hard work. It's good, it's great, it's just kind of is the blueprint of what we need to do."
This weekend they'll face a team that possesses a lot of the same attributes that they do, which shouldn't be a surprise given former Patriot Mike Vrabel has molded a team in his own personality.
"It's a real physical team," said Judon. "They're going to do what they're going to do. They're going to run the ball, play-action pass, they're going to get the ball in the hands of their playmakers."
"We're going to prepare for a really good team, a smart, physical team, a hard-working team," said Hightower. "We know what they are. We've got to be prepared for that."
Advanced Stat Check Playoff Odds Check
Here are the latest playoff odds projections from Football Outsiders and FiveThirtyEight.com.
Football Outsiders Playoff Odds
1 AFC Seed: 29.9% 2 AFC Seed: 16.0% 3 AFC Seed: 9.0% 4 AFC Seed: 4.5% 5 AFC Seed: 18.5% 6 AFC Seed: 10.2% 7 AFC Seed: 5.6% AFC East Champs: 59.4% Wild Card Team: 34.3% Conference Championship Appearance: 48.1% Conference Championship Win: 32.0% Super Bowl Win: 17.0% Patriots vs. Buccaneers Super Bowl: 9.9% Patriots vs. Cardinals Super Bowl: 7.8% Patriots vs. Cowboys Super Bowl: 5.5% Patriots vs. Packers Super Bowl: 4.6%
Make Playoffs: 82% AFC East Champs: 48% 1 AFC Seed: 15% Win Super Bowl: 7%
With a projected win over the Titans, the Patriots' AFC East title chances jump to 57% while their first-overall seed chances go to 24%. With a projected loss to the Titans, their playoff chances dip to 67% and their first-overall seed chances fall all the way to 2%.
The Patriots had full attendance at their Tuesday practice, and welcomed back two rookies off of the Non-Football Injury list. Both linebacker Cameron McGrone and safety Joshuah Bledsoe were spotted for the first time since the spring as the rookies took a significant stride in their development. Even if neither is able to crack the active roster in 2021, they'll get some valuable end-of-season practice time that should give them a jump on next season. Both are promising players at positions where there could be turnover in 2022.