By CBSBoston.com Staff

BOSTON (CBS) — The New England Patriots are on the rise.

Actually, they’ve been on the rise, having put together a five-game winning streak that’s completely flipped their 2021 season on its head. Going from 2-4 to 7-4 will have that kind of effect.

The Patriots currently sit in first place in the AFC East and in third place in the conference. Neither of those situations seemed at all plausible a month or so ago.

Where it goes from here remains just as unpredictable. With a home date vs. Tennessee, a road game at Indy, and two games vs. the Bills, the schedule is not particularly kind. It remains possible that the positive vibes in New England take a hit in the coming month.

For now, though, things are quite good for Bill Belichick’s team. And a quick scan around the internet at the latest NFL power rankings indicates that the rest of the country is taking note. Here’s where the Patriots rank at various sites.

ESPN: 9th

 They moved up one spot from 10th a week ago after routing the Falcons, 25-0. They’re behind the Titans (No. 3, dropping only one spot after losing to the Texans, Chiefs (No. 7) and Ravens (No. 8) among AFC teams.

The Colts rank 10th, while the Bills dropped six spots to No. 12.

NFL.com: 6th

The Patriots moved up two spots from No. 8 a week ago in Dan Hanzus’ rankings.

“Mac Jones has been an upgrade over Cam Newton, but the 2021 Patriots’ biggest difference is a defense that has surged during the team’s five-game winning streak. In that stretch, New England has given up just 10 points per game, with 12 interceptions against just four touchdown passes,” Hanzus wrote. “The 2021 version of Matt Ryan was a sitting duck against New England’s relentless pass rush, which turned Atlanta’s offensive linemen into sentient turnstiles on the way to four sacks and 12 QB hits. Matt Judon stands tall as the leader of this group: The ace free-agent signing is up to 10.5 sacks in what’s been an All-Pro worthy season. The Pats matched their 2020 win total by Thanksgiving and have found themselves in first place as a result.”

Only the Chiefs (No. 4) rank higher than the Patriots among AFC teams in Hanzus’ rankings. The Bills are right behind the Patriots, though, at No. 7. The Titans dropped six spots to eighth after their dud vs. Houston.

The Ringer: 5th

Danny Kelly has the Patriots in the “top shelf” of NFL teams, a group of just eight teams total and three AFC teams.

Yahoo Sports: 6th

Frank Schwab led his power rankings with a story about the Patriots’ steady improvement, and that’s reflected in their placement at No. 6.

That has them as the second-highest AFC team, though in this version, they are behind the Ravens (No. 3) and not the Chiefs (No. 8).

Bleacher Report: 4th

The staff at Bleacher Report was very, very impressed with the Patriots’ win in Atlanta, moving them up six spots from No. 10 all the way to No. 4.

“The Evil Empire is back,” the write-up declared. “After shutting out the Atlanta Falcons at home, the New England Patriots have won five straight games. Over their last three wins—two of which came against teams that were .500 or better entering Week 11—they’ve allowed only 13 points while scoring 94. At least one of our analysts believes the Pats are much more than just a playoff contender. They are a legitimate threat to win the AFC East and go deep into the playoffs.”

The Chiefs rank third in B/R’s rankings.

USA TODAY: 6th

The Patriots moved up two spots in USA TODAY’s rankings, settling in at No. 6 — though with some caution for what lies ahead.

“You can question how many quality wins they have, but when you’re beating NFL competition by an aggregate 94-13 score over a three-week period, that speaks volumes,” Nate Davis wrote. “Their next four games are against Tennessee, Buffalo (twice) and Indianapolis, a stretch that should put New England into clearer perspective.”

CBSBoston.com Staff