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Rookie quarterback Mac Jones and the New England Patriots are doing much better than expected. That’s about where the hype should end. The team stands 8-4, is riding a six-game win streak heading into Monday’s AFC showdown with the Buffalo Bills, and is in the thick of the playoff race. People in New England who root for the Patriots should be happy with the progress from last year’s 7-9 mark. Instead, they — and some of the local media — might be jumping the gun a bit.

Mac Jones and the New England Patriots are tops in the AFC

Kendrick Bourne #84 of the New England Patriots celebrates with Mac Jones #10 after Bourne scored on a third-quarter touchdown against the Tennessee Titans at Gillette Stadium on November 28, 2021, in Foxborough, Massachusetts. | Billie Weiss/Getty Images

If the NFL playoffs ended today, the Patriots would enter the postseason as the top seed in the AFC. The Patriots didn’t even play Sunday, but when the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Baltimore Ravens, the Pats vaulted into the top spot in an AFC loaded with mediocrity.

Jones has been just what the doctor ordered in New England. He’s an effective quarterback who handles the system well. There’s no flash or flair. It’s the same old dink-and-dunk offensive system that has gotten things done lately with a rookie quarterback and a swarming defense.

Listen to Patriots fans and Boston radio shows lately, and the Super Bowl parade might as well be booked now. After 20 years and six titles with Tom Brady, New England had its first losing season since 2000 last year when the Pats went 7-9.

Success has spoiled Pats fans. After their down year, they’re getting cocky again. Jones has been steady, not spectacular, yet is already drawing comparisons to Brady after 12 games. He’ll face his toughest test Monday night when he travels to Buffalo with much on the line.

Lou Merloni, a co-host on Boston radio station WEEI, said if the Patriots win Monday’s matchup with the Bills, it’s time to “get the duck boats ready,” signifying a parade is on the way.

Slow down, Lou.

Mac Jones and the Patriots are getting overhyped in New England, while the Bills are getting put down

Some members of the Boston media have a tough time accepting that their team just might not be the best. For 20 years, the Patriots were the most successful NFL team under Brady and head coach Bill Belichick. Patriots fans and media members were never shy about letting everyone know it. Last year, it was all taken away from them when Brady moved on and won a Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Things suddenly got quiet with the New England fan base.

Jones is a significant upgrade over former MVP Cam Newton, and has the team on a roll. Two other WEEI hosts, Andy Gresh and Rich Keefe, claim the Bills and the Bills Mafia fan base are upset the Patriots have stolen their team’s thunder with a resurgence this year. A year ago, the Bills took control of the AFC East and advanced to the AFC title game. This year, the Patriots are back fighting for the division, and the station believes it’s the Bills fans who are upset.

It appears to be the other way around.

With both teams’ biggest game of the hours from kickoff, hosts Gresh and Keefe went back in time to bash Scott Norwood (Scott Norwide as Gresh called him) for a field goal missed in the Super Bowl 30 years ago. They ripped the Bills for losing four straight Super Bowls. It was just an odd way of saying the Bills might be better now, but the Patriots have six Super Bowls to Buffalo’s none. It’s the Pats fans and some local media who are struggling with the AFC East no longer being a cakewalk.

Here’s why Jones and the Patriots are overhyped

Mediocre teams make up the bulk of the AFC. Not one has separated itself from the pack. Three weeks ago, the talk was the Cincinnati Bengals, who were tops in the conference. It had been the Tenessee Titans, then it was the Ravens. Now it’s the Patriots, and Jones is the apparent savior.

Where was the Jones/Patriots hype after Week 6? The team had just fallen at home to the Dallas Cowboys to drop to 2-4. The previous week, they needed a frantic comeback to knock off the Houston Texans.

Since then, they won six straight, and the Patriots’ gushing is back.

The surge began with a win over the lowly New York Jets, and then they went to Los Angeles and defeated the Chargers, a team that has proven they aren’t what we thought they were. To date, that has been New England’s signature victory this year.

After that, they defeated a poor Carolina Panthers team and a Cleveland Browns squad that was missing its top two running backs. A win over the struggling Atlanta Falcons was followed by a victory over the Titans, who were missing running back Derrick Henry and wide receivers Julio Jones and A.J. Brown.

This isn’t a knock on what the Patriots have done in their last six games. They’ve played whatever team that was put in front of them and won. They haven’t been world beaters but don’t tell that to local talk show hosts and their callers.

Buffalo hasn’t been much better. They have ugly losses to the Jets and the Jacksonville Jaguars, but Monday’s home game will be New England’s biggest test.

New England is good. They’re taking baby steps to get better, but being spoiled for the last 20 years is clearly showing.