There's nothing better than the weekend after a horrible loss. You can finally get the bad taste out of your mouth, turn the momentum upwards, and find some redemption. One win can can change a whole lot. If the Patriots can find a way to walk out of Miami with a convincing victory, they'll be 8-4, have the division all but wrapped up, and suddenly last week's embarrassment becomes the abberation, not the rule. They can begin to set their sights on playoff positioning as their remaining four more games are against mediocre-at-best teams. They can focus on getting healthy and making adjustments for what's going to be a very difficult playoff run. You give Bill Belichick four solid weeks to prepare, and I like the Patriots' chances. But first, the Patriots need to take care of business in Miami, and if you know New England's history, that's easier said than done.
1st Down: Dynamic Duo. If there's one thing that continues to eat at me following the Saints game, it's not the blown coverages on defense. I feel fairly confident that we won't again see the mental meltdown of Jonathan Wilhite and Brandon Merriweather letting a receiver run past them uncontested. What does give me some pause is the way the Saints were able to shut down both Randy Moss and Wes Welker by a series of double teams. If the Patriots aren't effective on the ground and Miami starts throwing heavy pressure on both Welker and Moss, it's going to be up to New England's 3rd receiver to be able to make plays in single coverage. Can the team rely on Sam Aiken to do this? That's a scary thought.
This is a copy-cat league so you know that Miami will absolutely be deploying some of the Saints schemes. On the flip side, Belichick's had a week to prepare for it and should have a few tricks up his sleeve to exploit it. Football is a game of checks and balances. You only have 11 men on the field at a given time, so if you're throwing four at Wes and Randy, there's going to be holes somewhere. In the air game, it's going to be mostly up to Aiken, but look for Kevin Faulk, Maroney, and Ben Watson to throw some wrinkles into the game plan as well. The Patriots have gotten exteremly one-dimensional over the course of this season. Tomorrow's game could be the one where we finally see a return to the Patriots' patented method of spreading the ball around.
Another big game for the Patriots, another big disappointment. I've been ragging on the Colts and Vikings for not beating anyone of substance, and it's time to come to grips with the fact that, honestly, the Patriots haven't beaten many good teams either. Sure, Baltimore was scorching hot back in Week 4, and the Falcons were much better in Week 3 than they are now, but by and large, the Patriots have spent their season roughing up the bottom-feeders and getting smacked around by the big boys. Out of the seven teams they've beaten, none hold a record better than 6-5. On the flip side, the combined record of the four opponents they've fallen to, at the time of their defeat, is a staggering 25-0.
Right now the Patriots are an enigma wrapped in a mystery. Here's what we know: they're undefeated in New England and in the original England. They're 0-4 in road games in America. They've played seven of their eleven games against undefeated competition and won three of them. The other four games against teams with at least one loss, were pretty lop-sided victories. I honestly don't know what to make of this team any more. They're shutting teams out 59-0 one week, and getting burned for 75 yard TD passes the next. All I know is that after Monday's pathetic performance, they're due for a tumble in the our rankings.
Click on "Read More" to view this week's edition of our Top 12 Rankings...
For those who don't know me, I am the head writer over at Something's Bruin which is primarily dedicated to the Boston Bruins and various hockey talk. Although my main love is hockey, I grew up watching and playing football (in both high school and college) so when Derek asked me to write a weekly article about football, I jumped all over it. The issue here is, for those that do know me know I am not a Patriots fan.
Actually, I despise the Patriots and I may be the only person in Boston who does. So my idea for this blog is something I like to call "From the eyes of the enemy" where I will write about their upcoming opponent.
Unless you've been living under a rock lately, the Patriots will head down to New Orleans to face the undefeated New Orleans Saints.
From the Eyes of the Enemy
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
The New Orleans Saints come into tonight's match-up against the New England Patriots with a record of 10-0. With that being said, the Saints (especially around these Boston parts) has been largely disrespected because:
1. They play in the NFC
2. People go to the old adage "They haven't beaten anybody".
Well those two points are absolutely terrible. Let's look at the first point:which I feel is always something AFC fans say because they have teams like Indianapolis and New England to rely on.
They play in the NFC
Instead of looking at the NFC as a whole, lets look at the NFC South where the Saints play the Carolina Panthers, Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tampa Bay stinks, so lets throw them out of the window before we move on. Before the season began, many people thought that Carolina and Atlanta would challenge New Orleans for the best team in the NFC South, but New Orleans disposed both of them pretty handedly (35-27 vs Atlanta and 30-20 vs. Carolina, both games at home).
The Saints are 3-0 in the NFC South and still have 3 more games, which they should win. The NFC also has teams like the Minnesota Vikings (10-1), Dallas Cowboys (8-3) and a couple of teams at 7-4 who could take down most AFC teams (Green Bay Packers and the Philadelphia Eagles).
So lets look at point #2:
People go to the old adage "They haven't beaten anybody".
I always felt that this is the biggest piece of crap line used by fans to justify how one team will beat another. Last season, the Patriots had the easiest strength of schedule with their opponents having a win percentage of .387 and a 99-157 record, however no one ever stated "they haven't beaten anyone" week in and week out of the 2008 season.
In week 6, the Saints welcomed a 5-0 New York Giants team to the Superdome and embarrassed them to the tune of 48-27. The score is not indicative to the type of play that the Saints played against the Giants. It was a pure beat down.
Need more proof?
The Saints welcomed Atlanta in week 8 and the Falcons were 4-2 and a hot team in the NFL. The Saints pounced on Matt Ryan early and torched the Falcons defense for 21 points in the 2nd quarter.
The Saints have the best offense in the NFL and are in the top 5 in most of the important categories like yards per game (1st), passing yards per game (4th), rushing yards per game (4th) and points per game (1st). The Saints average 5 touchdowns a game!
Everyone knows about Drew Brees (2,746 yards, 22 TDs, 9 INTs) and his receiving corps of Marques Colston, Devery Henderson and Jeremy Shockey (just to name a few), but how many people outside of fantasy footballers know about Pierre Thomas?
Thomas signed with the Saints as an undrafted free agent rookie in April of 2007. In 2007, Thomas wasn't able to show what he could do when given a shot, but in 2008 he shined in the Saints backfield, rushing for 625 yards and 9 touchdown on 129 carries. Thomas is an effective runner, especially downhill and has a great compliment of backs in Mike Bell and Reggie Bush (if Bush plays tonight).
The Patriots defense will have a tough time covering all of their receivers, especially speedsters like Henderson and Moore. I think Jeremy Shockey will benefit the most because he can outrun the Patriots' linebackers.
The New Orleans defense is much improved from last season, though they don't pose the threat that teams like Pittsburgh and Baltimore do. The defense is 15th in total yard allowed, 16th in passing yards allowed, 20th in rushing yards allowed, 15th in sacks but are 2nd in interceptions. The bright spot for the Saints defense is Darren Sharper, who is tied for 2nd in the NFL with interceptions (7), 3 of which he has returned for touchdowns.
Much like the New England defense, the Saints defense will have trouble locking down Randy Moss and Wes Welker, especially because they are two different types of receivers. Welker is a speedy, underneath receiver while Moss can stretch (and will) stretch the field.
For the Saints to disrupt this Patriot offense, they will need to get after Tom Brady, plain and simple. The defense can not sit back in a cover scheme because the Patriot receivers will eat it alive; I've seen it week in and week out. The Saints will have to bring "heat" (blitz) Brady from various spots, linebackers, conerbacks, safetys and disguise the defense well enough that the coverage will provide "coverage sacks".
No team will be able to fully disrupt the Patriots offense (sans New York Jets in week 2), but the Saints will need to contain it.
Look for this one to be a shootout, folks. I hope you enjoyed my first "From the Eyes of the Enemy segment", I promise it will get better as I go along. Next week, look for our next FTEOTE featuring the Miami Dolphins.
Get ready for a crazy week in the Foxboro Blog Top 12! There were some big losses that sent our top teams plummeting downward, as well as one particular matchup where the winner found themselves dropping a spot and the loser gained two ranks. In other news, my hard stance on Brett Favre and the Vikings has softened a bit, there's two new contenders in the rankings after Denver and Atlanta fell off, and we are headed for a clash of the titans on Monday night!
Click on "Read More" to view this week's edition of our Top 12 Rankings...
I've spent nine weeks plotting and scheming ways to make fun of Rex Ryan for this weekend's matchup. Little did I know that he'd do all the work for me. Without further ado, Foxboro Blog provides an exclusive sneek peek into the Jets team meeting this past week. This is footage that you simply won't find anywhere else...
First Down: What a sissy...
Rex Ryan is clearly not a conventional coach. When he first took the Jets job, he decided that it would be a good idea ruffle the feathers of the league's best and most-deadly coach, a coach who happened to lead the team that had dominated the Jets' division for the past decade, a coach he would have to face twice a year. Sure, you can argue that the statement that Ryan didn't come to New York to "kiss Belichick's rings" wasn't actually derogatory, but it was unnecessary. Why bring up Belichick at all? Why start throwing fuel on a media fire? Belichick's beef with the Jets could have been over with the dismissal of Mangini. Parcells was gone, as were most of his former players, and the dirty rat who betrayed him had been flushed down the sewer. With the Jets rebuilding and Miami taking the division in 2008, it was the perfect time for the Jets to make nice and fly under the Patriots radar.
Instead, Rex Ryan decides to run his mouth and set the wrong example for his young team. When the Jets started chirping prior to their Week 2 matchup with New England, I believe that they were pouring a world of hurt on themselves. Luckily for them, the schedule makers happened to put the game very early in to Tom Brady's rehab and a week where the Pats were without Wes Welker. The Jets were surprisingly able to back up they're talk. Unfortunately, the world of hurt was not prevented, just delayed. It's now Week 11, and the once "up and coming" Jets have looked nothing more than pitiful in recent weeks. Turns out all that over-confidence and trash talk that I predicted would lead to their doom has done them in more quickly that I expected.
Talk is cheap. It's what you do on the field that counts. It's a tough lesson for a young team to learn, and perhaps one that's even harder on a new head coach. You see, the Jets' recent performance supposedly drove Rex Ryan to tears in a team meeting. The fat and bastardly one tried to play it off as a joke later in the week, but the damage has been done. I don't see Bill Belichick breaking out the water works any time soon, but even if he did, he's a three-time Super Bowl Champion head coach. He's got a reputation that commands respect. Rex Ryan, is a rooke coach. He runs his mouth. His fingers are constanly moist with the grease of fried chicken. He has questionable hygiene from an inabillity to properly wash all his body areas and clean underneath his rolls. And now he's breaking down crying after a loss to the Jaguars.
This cannot end well for New York.
This week was supposed to be the triumphant return of the Patriots to the top of the NFL rankings. Heading into the fourth quarter of Sunday Night's game, you would've been declared certifiably insane to not regard New England as the league's #1 team. Even though the Saints remained undefeated, their recent narrow-escapes with teams like Miami, Carolina, and, of all teams, St. Louis, clearly hurt the "invicible" status they held during the season's first month. Yes, with the Patriots piling it on the Colts like Rex Ryan at the Sizzler buffet, it seemed like all was finally right in this fan's football world.
Then the unthinkable happened. I won't relive the horrific details which have been beaten to death on this blog already, but needless to say, what was once an easy ballot to fill, has left me racking my brain for three days. You see, I honestly believe that the Patriots are a better team than the Colts. Yet at the same time, that could easily just be my bias talking as the Colts have clearly had the better of the Pats during the second half of this decade. If the Patriots are so much better, then why have we dropped five of the last six to Indy? On the flip side, one could argue that had the Patriots' entire team not had the flu in the AFC title game, had Dave Thomas not killed Matt Cassel's game-winning drive with an egregious unncessary roughness penalty last season, and had Bill Belichick not coached this team like a complete ninny in the fourth quarter, then we're talking about how the Patriots have completely owned the Colts in the 00's. But then I start sounding like a Steelers fan, coming up with lame excuses for my teams short-comings in big games, and I just want to hurt myself.
So you see, either way I call this thing, I lose. I either rank a team that I believe with all my heart are beyond over-rated above my beloved Patriots, going against all my principles and actually over-rating them myself, or I come off as a complete homer, ranking a 6-3 team above a 9-0 team that just beat them this week. Dillemmas, dillemmas...