Each Wednesday we'll identify one player, coach or area of the team that is most under the microscope. This week, head coach Bill Belichick is our choice.
Why Belichick? Why the front-runner for Coach of the Year? He has withstood every challenge and is putting together his most masterful head-coaching performance yet.
That's exactly why he is under the microscope.
Since the loss to the Browns, Belichick hasn't failed. A defense that lacks good personnel has found ways to get this team to 10-2. He lead the Patriots to a nationally televised beatdown of the Jets to grab supremacy in the AFC on Monday night. Everything has worked.
But can it continue? Can Belichick keep outfoxing opposing coaches? Can he get his team as prepared and fired up for a game as he did for Monday night's most-hyped game of the season against the Jets?
The Bears will give Belichick a stiff challenge on Sunday. He will face a respected offensive mind in Mike Martz who will be ready for whatever the Patriots throw at him. And Belichick's high-powered offense will face one of the league's best defenses.
It was easy to get up for the Jets. The Patriots already had seen the Jets and lost to them, so revenge was a factor. They had a couple extra days to prepare and Rex Ryan provides plenty of motivation. Belichick doesn't have those intangibles leading into Sunday's game at Soldier Field. Sure, it's a huge game against a likely playoff team on the road and a win makes the Patriots almost a lock for home-field advantage in the AFC, barring a collapse, but this week of practice doesn't have the excitement and drama that Jets week had.
Here you go, Belichick. Can you continue defying the odds and win games with the league's youngest defense that has allowed more passing yards per game than any other team not named the Texans? Can your offense that was shut down by the Browns, of all teams, keep scoring at will, even against the Bears?
The Patriots are steamrolling opponents and don't seem to be letting up, but the task doesn't get easier for Belichick this week and he'll need to continue performing his magic to keep the Pats atop the NFL.