It's all too easy to start bashing Randy Moss now that he's no longer a New England Patriot. I've heard plenty of Pats fans say things like "He's lost a step", "You can't win with a guy like him", "We're better off without him", and so on and so forth. While I certainly don't think that the sky is falling and the Patriots are doomed without him, the bottom line is that following the Moss trade, life for the Patriots just got much, much harder. Everyone on the team is going to have to up their game to compensate for the extra pressure they'll be feeling without #81 on the field. Regardless of whether he hauled in four touchdowns, or didn't grab a single catch like last Monday Night, Moss drew attention away from guys like Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez and opened up the field for them. Moss also played an integral role in the Patriots 2007 campaign and was a major factor in Tom Brady eclipsing Peyton Manning with 50 TD throws in a season. He was a player who brought us to our feet and dropped our jaws seemingly week after week. While, expectedly, the honeymoon didn't last forever with Moss, he played a phenomenal role in Patriots' history and it was a pleasure to have him on the team the past three and one quarters of a season. I don't want to lose sight of that and come off as a fair-weather fan with what I'm about to write. Thanks for the ride, Randy.
All that being said, I'm excited by this Moss trade. To me, it marks a return to "Patriots Football". At the moment, no man on the New England roster feels that he's bigger than the team. They're a bunch of rookies, cast-offs, and has-beens, determined to band together and beat the odds. When I look at the way New England dismantled Miami last week, it was by spreading the ball around, making big plays, and capitalizing on their opponents mistakes. The Patriots of old made their living off "flukey" games like that. They won three Super Bowls by outhustling and outsmarting their opposition. Rarely when a big game came along were they the most talented team on the field, but they were always the most prepared and determined and they always came out victorius.
To some degree, Moss fit that "Patriot" mold when he first arrived in Foxboro, coming of an injury and a disappointing stretch with the Raiders. He was believed by many to be washed up and had a giant chip on his shoulder. However, in the wake of 2007's fireworks, that bit of edge disappeared. We saw selfishness and greed rear its ugly head in players like himself, Adalius Thomas, Logan Mankins, and Richard Seymour. And sure enough, after a concerted effort to take this team back to its roots, Bill Belichick has finally removed the last bit of cancer. The Patriots are pure once again and ready to be molded in the likeness of the greats like Tedy Bruschi and Troy Brown.
Still, it's not going to be easy without Moss. If you want to run pure numbers, the Patriots post-season and Super Bowl chances just took a big hit. But the Patriots are a team that defies the numbers and believes the only thing they're good for is breaking records. Benjarvus Green-Ellis, Danny Woodhead, Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez, Algie Crumpler, Brandon Tate and the forgotten poster-child for the overlooked, the #199th pick himself, Tom Brady will have to rise above the odds. They'll do so by re-creating this offense and developing it into one where no single player is the focal point, where creativity and unselfishness are the cornerstones, and digging hard for the extra yard is par for the course. That's how the Patriots won in 2001, 2003, and 2004. They were "The Misfits", "The Replacements", the team that was never supposed to be there, but was there, hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.
I like many Patriots fans long for those days of the early 00's. Ever since Super Bowl XLII, this team has felt like a shell of its former self. It was far more than Randy Moss that kept them from finding themselves again, but his depature was the final shoe that needed to drop. Now it's up to the players he left behind to build the momentum, and like rolling stones who have no moss, take out everyone and everything that stands in their path.
Click "Read More" below for Predictions
1. Vikings - I like the Moss pickup for the Vikes. AP, Favre, and Randy should put on quite the show and fix what's ailing in Minnesota
2. Packers - The Pack aren't looking like the Super Bowl contenders everyone expected them to be and I could see them on the playoff bubble.
3. Bears - They currently sit atop the division at 4-1, but I don't see it lasting
4. Lions - They're fiesty, but it's not their year
1. Falcons - Atlanta has had a flurry of close games, but they've pulled through. I think they're for real.
2. Saints - New Orleans has really looked shaky to start the season. Could the defending champs find themselves out of the playoffs?
3. Buccaneers - Perhaps the surprise team of 2010, Tampa has made the NFC South, very interesting
4. Panthers - Just awful.
1. Giants - They looked dead in the water two weeks ago, but something finally woke the sleeping Giants.
2. Redskins - They've won some exciting games this season and look to be legit players in the hunt for the division
3. Eagles - Lack of stability at the QB position raises some concerns
4. Cowboys - To paraphrase Jim Mora... Super Bowl?!?! Super Bowl?!?!
1. Cardinals - There's absolutely nothing to be proud of, sitting atop this group of teams
2. Seahawks- It's even worse when you can't sit atop this group of teams
3. 49ers - I believe they'll turn it around, but it's too little, too late
4. Rams - Their back-to-back wins are already the best thing to happen to this team in 3 years
1. Ravens - The North will be tough, but I like Baltimore to take the division
2. Steelers - The defense is crushing, but the offense needs work.
3. Bengals - Losses to the Browns and Buccs have derailed their season
4. Browns - Hope you're enjoying Cleveland, Mangina
1. Colts - I'm not counting this team out until their heads are cut off, and even then...
2. Texans - Houston looked great early on, but are showing flashes of their inexperience
3. Titans - It's anyone's division right now and Tennessee could surprise people
4. Jaguars - They're currently tied for first, but I don't see it holding up for 12 more weeks
1. Patriots - I believe.
2. Jets - But it's going to be reeeeeeeeeeeeeally close if the Pats do take the East.
3. Dolphins - The road back from 0-2 at home against New England and New York is simply too much of a challenge
4. Bills - The Panthers of the AFC
1. Chiefs - Very underrated defense. They're for real. Still, whoever gets the top wild card slot will be lucky.
2. Chargers - An 0-3 start on the road, with two divisional losses could do them in.
3. Broncos - Poor Josh McDaniels
4. Raiders - Already won 2-5. That's too many considering the Pats own their #1 pick this year.
NFC Playoff Seeding:
2. New York
AFC Playoff Seeding
1. New England
4. Kansas City
5. New York
Vikings over Saints
Packers over Cardinals
Steelers over Colts
Jets over Chiefs
Falcons over Packers
Vikings over Giants
Patriots over Steelers
Jets over Ravens
Falcons over Vikings
Patriots over Jets
Super Bowl XLV:
Patriots over Vikings