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Silver lining in the depressing cloud New England Patriots have hung over AFC East

Watching the New England Patriots play Thursday night, as they dismantled the Houston Texans, 27-0, it occurred to me how depressed other AFC East teams and their fans must feel about New England's start to the 2016 season.

This, you'll recall, was supposed to be the window to fallibility the Patriots opened at the start of the season. And yet they are 3-0 and have 10 days off to get stronger before their next game.

They're 3-0 without the Earth's best quarterback.

They're 3-0 having played their backup for six out of a possible 12 quarters and their third-string quarterback for six out of a possible 12 quarters.

They're 3-0 with Rob Gronkowski missing two of those games and playing only 14 snaps in the third game.

They're 3-0 and they're a team that traditionally gets better as the season wears on and Bill Belichick's coaching kicks in.


The Patriots are going to win the AFC East (again) barring a serious collapse. And, by the way, this team seems collapse proof.

But amid all the depression there is a morsel of good cheer for Dolphins fans.

If you watched what the Patriots did to the Texans, you had to feel better about what the Dolphins accomplished in New England only four days earlier.

The Texans, like the Dolphins, got behind early in the game. The Dolphins kept playing and managed a significant comeback before falling short, 31-24. The Texans authored no such counter-punch.

The Texans came into last night's game with a scary pass rush. J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney and the rest of the Houston front seven led the NFL in sacks with nine in two games. Well, last night Watt and Clowney basically got erased -- they had a handful of tackles between them but no impact plays. The Texans had one sack of third-stringer Jacoby Brissett.

The Dolphins' performance by contrast -- with two sacks and seven quarterback hits -- suddenly looks a little better.

The Texans could managed nothing against the Patriots on offense. Quarterback Brock Osweiler had a 60.6 QB rating in completing 24 of 41 passes for 196 yards. Suddenly, Ryan Tannehill's 32 of 45 for 389 yards and a 93.7 QB rating looks much better. And remember, the criticism of Tannehill's performance is he picked up a lot of those statistics when the Patriots were comfortably ahead and reportedly (I didn't see it) softened their defense in the second half.

The Patriots were comfortably ahead of the Texans in the second half and still Osweiler couldn't rally.

The Patriots also limited Pro Bowl receiver DeAndre Hopkins to only four catches for 56 yards. The Dolphins, by comparison, had Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker go over 100 yards against New England.

What I'm saying is the Patriots beat the Dolphins and it was a letdown. The Patriots are 3-0 and that is a sign they're the class of the AFC East. The Patriots are likely going to get better going forward.

But after watching what the Patriots did to a Houston team that was in the playoffs last year, was 2-0 before last night, and has playoff aspirations this year, perhaps the Dolphins should not feel as bad about what happened in New England on Sunday