There was a time when the New England Patriots regularly won Super Bowls, automatically won AFC East crowns and always were at least in the playoff hunt. Suddenly, it feels like eons ago.
Welcome to the new era, where Pats Nation is forced an upside-down world view of the NFL standings. One in which they are no longer concerned about the results of the games between the best teams, but only the ones near the basement.
Even last year, the Patriots were scoreboard-watching into December. Hoping this team or that team would lose, allowing them to increase their chances of slipping into the playoffs as a Wild Card. But now - at 2-8 - the only "race" involving New England is the one for the No. 1 overall pick in next April's NFL Draft.
With an eye on that unfamiliar, yet valuable prize, a look at the results - seven of the top eight teams in the tankathon are in action - that would benefit the Pats' pursuit of a better draft pick (currently No. 3) as they enjoy their Bye this weekend.
No. 1 Panthers over Cowboys - Ownership of the No. 1 pick (it actually belongs to the Bears, courtesy of last year's deal that allowed it to move up and draft Bryce Young) seems safe this week, as one-win Carolina is a 10.5-point home underdog. But Dallas did stub its talented toe earlier this season at 2-8 Arizona without Kyler Murray.
No. 2 Giants over Commanders - What New England ideally needs is for quarterback Tommy Devito to get hot - don't laugh, beggars can't be choosers - and for New York to win this week in Washington and next week in, yep, Foxboro. Both the Giants and Pats are 2-8, setting up a Nov. 26 "showdown" for the No. 2 pick.
No. 4 Cardinals over Texans - Also 2-8, Arizona is on the heels of the Pats. Who would've thought Houston would be a six-point favorite over anybody, any time?
No. 5 Bears over Lions - At 3-7, Chicago could cement its position behind the Pats with a shocking upset in Detroit.
No. 6 Packers over Chargers - A win at Lambeau would give Green Bay four wins. Are there two more wins on the Pats' schedule?
No. 7 Rams over Seahawks - Just two years removed from winning the Super Bowl, Sean McVay could atone for snickering at New England's Cole Strange pick by upsetting Seattle and getting out of the way.
No. 8 Titans over Jaguars - A win for 3-6 Tennessee would further distance them behind the Pats. But a loss might further derail the Titans' overall direction and make coach Mike Vrabel more available after the season.