That doesn't mean that they can't win the Super Bowl.
Obviously, it's Oct. 25, and it's far too early to say with any shred of confidence that any team will be playing for the Lombardi Trophy in February. Yet, through seven weeks of the season, it's clear that the NFL is as wide open as it can be.
So maybe the Patriots have some holes, and maybe their win on Sunday was a little unspectacular, but that doesn't mean you should sell them short on their Super Bowl chances.
There will be hours and hours of talk radio and thousands of words written in print and online this week dedicated to the Pats' mistakes on Sunday. People will question their running backs, Tom Brady's effectiveness without Randy Moss, the offensive line, Jake Ingram's wild and crazy long snaps and crazy old Bill Belichick's decision to go for it on fourth-and-1.
All those questions are valid. None of them should exclude the Patriots from Super Bowl discussions.
Of course, to have such discussions, you can't compare this year's Patriots team to those of yesteryear. Those teams were among the most dominant in NFL history, winning 21 straight games from '03-'04 and winning 18 in a row in '07 before the Super Bowl That Need Not Be Named. Football fans may not see such sustained dominance from one team for a long, long time.
Instead of comparing the 2010 Patriots to any other Patriots teams, it's time to start comparing them to the rest of the league this year. And really, they're no worse than anybody else.
The Patriots are tied with the Steelers and Jets for the best record in the NFL at 5-1. The Patriots have head-to-head matchups with both teams left on their schedule, and the Jets and Steelers will square off in Week 15, so all three squads will have a chance to control their own destiny in terms of their AFC supremacy.
While the Patriots are far from perfect, you can't look around the rest of the conference without finding flaws in just about every team.
Jets: They're heavily reliant on an old LaDainian Tomlinson, who's bound to either slow down or get dinged up at some point. Mark Sanchez has been OK but has shown some shakiness in late, close situations.
Steelers: They're 5-1 but haven't faced stiff competition. They lost against the only "elite" team they've faced in the Ravens, and they needed a suspect call by the officials to beat the Dolphins on Sunday. They may turn out to be very good, but we've yet to see them really tested.
Colts: The perennial power in Indy is lacking a bit of punch this season, and the season-ending injury to Dallas Clark is a killer for Peyton Manning.
Ravens: They were cruising to an easy road victory in New England two weeks ago when Joe Flacco and the offense went completely flat. Needing overtime to complete a comeback over the 0-6 Bills the following week, and spouting off trash talk after losing to the Patriots speaks volumes about this team's lack of focus.
Titans: They're 5-2, but they've lost the only two tough games they've played. Both were at home. It's hard to take the Titans very seriously.
Then there is the NFC, which is, quite simply, a mess. The Falcons, Giants, Seahawks and Buccaneers are atop the conference, and they all take turns each week looking great and then looking terrible.
None of that is to say that the Patriots don't have their own issues or that none of those teams are Super Bowl contenders. The point is that nobody's perfect, and it's truly anyone's game this season.
Realistically, it's not terribly difficult to envision the Patriots winning both games against the Steelers and Jets. Then figure in that the rest of the teams on the Patriots' schedule are a combined 20-31, and the Patriots might be looking at a 12-4 or even 13-3 season.
Pretty crazy for a team starting four rookies on defense, relying on two rookie tight ends on offense and starting an undrafted, third-year running back who entered the year with 100 career rushing attempts.
Yet, there they are at 5-1.
The NFL is wide open. The Patriots, even without Randy Moss, are right in the mix for the best team in the league. Wins don't come easy from them on a week-to-week basis, but the same can be said for just about every team.
They're far from Super Bowl favorites, but the next 10 weeks and beyond will at the very least be awfully interesting to watch.