Archive | August, 2012

Why I despise the “Patriots could go 16-0” talk

29 Aug

This summer, as I got over another gut-wrenching Super Bowl loss and began to get geared up for another NFL season, I turned on the TV to see one of the stupidest discussions I have ever seen on ESPN. Yes, I understand how hard it is for analysts to generate discussion topics during the offseason. That said, having a discussion in July over the prospect of the Patriots going 16-0 is ridiculous.

Based on 2011 win-loss records, the Patriots have 2012’s easiest schedule.  People have used this bit of information to back up the notion that the Patriots will once again achieve an undefeated regular season. To make this argument is to ignore many of the NFL’s realities. The NFL’s parity makes it America’s best sports league; teams commonly go from worst to first, perennial contenders fall, and, unfortunately, injuries rip through the league’s rosters every year. As all Patriots fans learned on a fateful afternoon in September 2008, it can all come apart in an instant. Division rivals are building rosters specially designed to compete with New England; Bills coaches and management hinted that the additions of pass rushers Mario Williams and Mark Anderson were, in large part, meant to build a defense to harass Tom Brady. Sweeping both teams will be no easy feat in 2012.

    Two specific 3-game stretches look formidable on New England’s schedule; it will be hard to get through both without a loss. From weeks 3-5, the Patriots visit Baltimore, Buffalo (where they lost last season), before returning home to face old nemesis Peyton Manning and the Broncos. From weeks 13-15, the Pats visit Miami, a traditionally difficult game, followed by home games against powerhouses Houston and San Francisco. To win every game in these two stretches would be extremely difficult. Tom Brady and the offense could lead the team through these stretches if they are clicking on all cylinders; at this point none of the aforementioned teams could be considered offensive powerhouses that could keep up with Tom Brady on one of his good days. These two stretches aside, every game in a league as competitive as the NFL is a challenge (as Bill Belichick will constantly remind everybody). Nothing is guaranteed.

    Some people forget what a special regular season 2007 was for the Patriots (and no, I don’t need to be reminded of how the postseason ended that year). The 2007 team had incredible talent on both sides of the ball. The Patriots’ Super Bowl teams from 2001-2004 were defined by dominant defenses; in recent seasons Brady and the offense have been the team’s clear strength. The 2007 Patriots came at the junction of these two eras. The team had the best offense the NFL has ever seen along with a rock-solid defense with strong veteran leaders like Rodney Harrison and Tedi Bruschi. On paper, the 2012 Patriots are not as good a team, not even close. The AFC is clearly the weaker conference, and I fully expect the Patriots to repeat as AFC East champs and to likely enjoy a first-round playoff bye. But to expect them to go 16-0 is to ignore the team’s defensive weaknesses and to disrespect e lot of what makes the NFL great. Would I like the Pats to 16-0 again? Certainly. Did I even think of that happening before ESPN had to bring it up? Of course not.  


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29 Aug

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