FOXBORO -- Ten weeks into the National Football League, just past the unofficial midpoint for your New England Patriots, and making a prediction for Super Bowl XLVIII remains as much of a mystery as it did in August.
There is no clear favorite on either side. Unbeaten Kansas City gets the dismissive chuckle.
Denver? I don’t know. Backing Peyton Manning is like betting one of those cheap nags at Suffolk Downs that has won 1 race in 40 tries, but stacks up the second and third-places by the dozen.
He’s forever a postseason heartbreaker. Manning is 9-11 in the playoffs with four first-round disappointments in five tries since 2007.
Seattle? Pete Carroll.
Cincinnati? Mr. .500 Marvin Lewis.
Green Bay? Scott Tolzien is your quarterback right now?
New Orleans? Not against any team that can run the football.
San Francisco? Curse of the previous runner-up.
Everyone has flaws, leaving the tattered, torn and still terribly dangerous Patriots, at 7-2, directly in the mix.
Here are five reasons why we should consider them a true, inside-track contender for a Super Bowl title.
Seventh in the NFL with 8.5 sacks, Chandler Jones is primed for his first Pro Bowl selection. He is the lone blue-chipper left on the Pats defense and is playing like it.
He’s going to be near 20 sacks by the time this thing is done. And the second-year man out of Syracuse has been more than just numbers. Jones occupies blockers, moves all over the field and plays the run surprisingly well for a guy of his stature. He’s a game-changer, plain and simple.
Jones is something this defense hasn’t had since 2006. And he’ll be the No, 1 reason this team goes to Super Bowl XLVIII.
2. Tommy and the 30-somethings
By “30-somethings,” I mean no reference to age. We’re talking Brady and enough weapons to put up 30-plus every week in the points column.