The Patriots drop just one spot after their 24-20 loss to the Panthers, the same team that leapfrogs New England in the rankings. Hard to argue with that.
Next up is the No. 1 Broncos.
The Patriots currently rank as the third AFC team behind Denver and Kansas City (No. 3), with Indianapolis (No. 7) and Cincinnati (No. 8) not far behind in the rearview mirror.
The Patriots are a solid No. 6, with each of their three losses close enough that they could have gone the other way. It sets up a scenario in which they should be in the championship hunt again, and the key, as always, is health and if they can catch fire at the right time.