Tag Archives: Bill Belichick

Back to (Run) School

The most unique spelling of his first name and the fifth leading rusher in the NFL. Mr. Stevan Ridley! (patriots.com)

Anyone catch the Oregon versus Washington game last weekend? If you did then you  might have noticed how similar the Patriots offense looks as compared to the Ducks. Fast paced no-huddle with tons of running out of the shotgun formations and short quick passes.

Just compare the Ducks 52-21 waxing of Washington to the 31-21 victory by the Patriots over Peyton Manning and the Broncos last weekend.

Team A: 497 total yards, 299 rushing, 198 passing, 32 first downs.

Team B: 444 total yards, 251 rushing, 193 passing, 35 first downs.

Pretty identical right? Team A is Oregon. Team B is New England.

Guess what? It’s not a coincidence. Oregon coach Chip Kelly worked with the Patriots’ staff this offseason and yet again Bill Belichick, with the help of Josh Mcdaniels has transformed the offense. In 2007 they were like Texas Tech with the air raid. Last season it was tight end city in a more Pro-Style. This season seems to be a move to spread run attack which is very college-like.

So while every team was ready for Gronk and Hernandez to rip it up it has been another two guys; Stevan Ridley and Brandon Bolden.

Integral part of the offense indeed. (patriots.com)

Ridley piled up 151 yards against Denver for his third 100-yard game of the season. He is ranked 5th in the NFL in rushing. Who is the last Patriot running back that really produced like this? Perhaps in the one-year revival of Corey Dillon’s career? If not that then its Curtis Martin. Now that’s not to say that five games is enough to compare him to a Hall of Famer (or former Jet) like C-Mart and a big part of it has been the system but what Ridley has done has been very impressive.

Then there is Bolden who was undrafted out of Ole Miss. His numbers aren’t as eye-popping (206 yards, one 100-yard game) but they don’t need to be. He spells Ridley and runs hard. Also still in the shuffle is the versatile Danny Woodhead who picked up the two biggest third downs of the game against Denver.

Also got to throw a ton of credit to the offensive line. With Matt Light and Brain Waters gone the unit had more question marks than a team would care to have and yet the line has held up. You have to have a skilled and conditioned line to run and offense like the Patriots did last week and it never looked like the guys were staggering down the field gasping for air/water/death.

Do the Patriots have the best running back group in the NFL? Probably not. However as the third best rushing squad so far, they certainly have the best system.

Wow, 373 words into a post and we haven’t even touched on the passing game. That has to be some kind of record. With the Patriots seemingly able to run the ball at will Tom Brady didn’t really have to be unbelievable. He completed a good amount of his passes (23-for-31) for a good amount of yards (223) and didn’t turn the ball over. (By the way he’s right behind that Brees fellow on that consecutive games with a touch down streak after another last week). However the numbers belie Brady’s most important contribution. There aren’t that many quarterbacks that could actually run the offense like the Patriots did. The amount of reads he has to make, the audibles he calls all while keeping everyone on the same page. There isn’t a stat for that but it needs to be said, this new system doesn’t work without No. 12 under center.

Sunday also officially put to rest the Wes Welker is being phased out rumor.  13 receptions, 104 yards and a touchdown. He’s had at least 100 yards and eight catches in each of the last three games. Sit down, shut up. Wes is just fine.

One of the victims, at least in terms of statistics, of this new power run offense is Rob Gronkowski. Gronk had just four receptions and 35 yards.  He’s had a few good games but is not at the level he was last season. Only three Gronk-spikes? Can’t say I’m not disappointed by that. However it’s coming with the offense playing a balanced and seemingly unstoppable style of ball so I also realyl can’t complain. Wins over fantasy points and stats all day erry day.

(Yes I just tossed out an erry).

Now let’s talk about the defense. It’d be awesome if the Patriots also looked like a college defnese like say Alabama. That’s not the case. Peyton threw for 337 yards on a bunch of passes that really wobbled and floated. At times it looked like a strong wind would just carry the ball away like the plastic bag in American Beauty. Still 337. The Patriots also had a open and shut game turn a bit more intriguing. That just seems to be the defense’s M.O. It can’t defend the pass very well (30th) and will let team’s back in the game if there is a top-line quarterback on the other side.

If it wasn’t for some fortunate miscues by Willis McGahee, that game could have ended up being even tighter.

Speaking of top-line quarterbacks have to take some time to mention the Manning-Brady rivalry. Brady is now 9-4 against Manning so its nice to see that the Patriots still own at least one of the Mannings.  A few too many Papa John’s adds probably slowing No. 18.

So the secondary is weak but the front seven. Ahh, the front seven. Chandler Jones is a beast even if his numbers don’t always show it.

Familiar sight, this time with Ninkovich making Peyton pay. (patriots.com)

He’s the only pass rusher that seems to get after the quarterback ferociously every down. Jerod Mayo still piles up tackles.  Vince Wilfork clogs the hole as well as ever and I mean the line of scrimmage not his arteries. Brandon Spikes has had a great bounce back season thus far. Also Rob Ninkovich, with a pair of forced fumbles against Denver,  needs to be given more credit. He’s a return of the Bruschi/Vrabel type linebacking corps of the early 2000s.

The Patriots will take on Pete Carrol (remember that failure of a Patriots coach?) and the Seattle Seahawks this coming weekend. Carrol has some experience against an Oregon-type offense with his tenure as the USC head coach. Guaranteed Carrol will go back to some of that knowledge to game plan for the Patriots. Another guarantee is that the Patriots offense will probably adjust accordingly. This week they’re running but with so much skill on the roster, it seems like the Patriots will just keep switching things up while very other team in the NFL tries to catch up.

-Phil

Will the Patriots stick with this offensive plan all season? Are the defense’s weaknesses too much for New England to overcome or can the front seven make up for it? Let us know on Twitter (@seeuinoctober) or in the comments.

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Officially Tough Loss

If Twitter has taught me anything it is that everyone really hates the replacement officials. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)

So not sure if you had heard but apparently the NFL is using replacement officials. When did this happen?

Alright, all jokes aside, clearly this little experiment is not working. The Baltimore/New England game was called atrociously (on both sides) and the Golden Tate game winning touchdown reception that wasn’t really a reception it would be irresponsible not to mention and or discuss this issue. But really there isn’t much to discuss. The owners (who are somehow not taking much of the brunt of the hate), NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell  and the real referees need to get in a room and figure this out. Honestly the rest of the season cannot have games like this past weekend.

I’d go on but really at this point between Twitter, SportsCenter and the personal blogs of millions I’d just be throwing a bucket of water into the Atlantic Ocean. Fix this referee issue. That is all.

Now to the actual reason fans care about the NFL, you know the football. On second thought maybe I should keep discussing the referee debacle since I really don’t feel like writing about yet another crushing New England Patriots defeat.

Before I get into that I would like to say that I wish Torrey Smith and his family the very best in these terrible times. As much as I hated to watch the Patriots lose it was nice to see Smith have such a huge game when he clearly needed it.

Anyway back to the less important stuff. I thought about just writing “The Patriots lost. The End” for this post but that was on Sunday. Now that I’ve been able to stew I can be more objective. (Okay not really but I can pretend).

Another week of disappointment (patriots.com)

Let’s spin it positively. New England is 1-2 but if you look at its defeats its not as devastating a record as it appears. The Patriots lost two games by a combined score of three points against two opponents that have a combined record of 5-1.

But there is also a negative angle to be taken. The Patriots lost two winnable games by not closing in a trend that seems to be becoming more and more prevalent. Yet again the Patriots built a lead early and controlled the game for the first three quarters or so before suddenly folding in the fourth quarter. It happened against Baltimore (up nine halfway through the fourth), against Arizona to an extent (out gained the Cardinals 387-245 but lost because of a blocked punt that set up a two-yard touchdown drive). It goes further back to last season in the Super Bowl (team needed just one first down but Wes Welker dropped that pass) and you could even argue that it happened against Baltimore in the AFC Championship game because if Lee Evans makes that catch or that field goal goes in things could have gone entirely differently.

I’m not sure which of these outlooks is more of an accurate assessment but my feelings are that the second option is more indicative of what this team is right now.

After playing extremely well in the first two games and the first few drives of the matchup with Baltimore suddenly the defense couldn’t stop the Ravens at all. In fact on the first three drives of the game the Patriots forced two punts and an interception. From there Baltimore scored on five of their last seven possessions. Now part of the blame can go to the officials as time and time again Baltimore seemed to get bailed out on mysterious holding penalties but its not the only issue. The secondary just didn’t do a good job in coverage. Devin McCourty dropped an interception or two and the defense just didn’t get off the field enough. Watching this defense, especially in tight games, is painful because you just never feel like they’ll get a stop when they need to.

One positive was the stop the unit got on a fourth and one play. As I watched that I remarked that I didn’t think the Patriots had stuffed a run play on fourth and short since John Hannah was still on the team. In fact the run defense was pretty solid although Ray Rice did gallop for 101 yards.

Then there’s the offense which in these tough losses always seems to be just one first down from sealing the game only to fail to convert. Despite getting bailed out themselves on some dubious penalty calls (although the reversed interception in my mind was legit) the Patriots drive to kill the clock featured just six yards of offense actually gained without help from the zebras and had an alarming number of poor play calls. It needs to be mentioned that Josh McDaniels still seems to be readjusting to being the offensive coordinator again. I mean that double reverse to Edeleman was just a dumb play. You don’t need to run trick plays like you’re playing Boise State in the effing Fiesta Bowl.

The offense also failed in the fourth quarter when instead of putting the final nail in the coffin after driving deep into Baltimore territory with a touchdown, it settled for a 20-yard field goal. Seven of the team’s last 11 scoring drives have ended in field goals. That just can’t happen when you have the talent on offense the Patriots have.

Those struggles all come down to one thing; closing. The Patriots have to figure out how to better close out drives on offense and defense and even more importantly how to close out games if they want to rise from this 1-2 rut.

Some quick hits from the game:

Has anyone seen that guy on the left recently? (Matt Stone/bostonherald.com)

-Brandon Llloyd might be able to catch anything and clearly Brady feels that way. He has somehow become Brady’s favorite receiver even though Wes Welker had a vintange performance with eight catches for 142 yards. Time and time again Lloyd made catches that just didn’t seem possible.

-Has Gronkowski become just the most expensive decoy in the NFL? Three targets, two receptions, 21 yards. I don’t know if it’s the play calling or that Gronk just isn’t open but he just doesn’t seem like that important a piece in the offense right now. Could losing Hernandez being an even bigger loss than once thought?

-Stevan Ridley has certainly begun a slow descent back to earth. His carries and yards have all gone down each week with the 13 carries and 37 yards against Baltimore nowhere near the Barry Sanders-esque performance he had in week one. Granted Tennessee’s run defense is horrible. So horrible that even the Lions managed to rush for 100 yards against it.

-Heaping praise on the Patriots front seven, especially rookies Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower, seems to have jinxed the unit. The Patriots issues in stopping the pass, especially late in games, has a lot to do with the team not creating pressure. Against Baltimore on Sunday the Patriots had zero sacks and just one tackle for loss. Anybody is going to toss up 380 yards if they have all day to throw the ball.

The Patriots are 1-2 after last weekends loss. The first time since 2003 that they have been below .500. Here’s hoping this weekend everything (referees included) gets back to normal.

-Phil

Should the Patriots feel okay about the 1-2 start? Let us know on Twitter (@seeuinoctober) or in the comments.

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Prognostication Is My Bussiness: Week 2 in the 2012 NFL

Thank goodness for the New England Patriots. If it weren’t for the hall of fame tandem of Mr. Brady and Coach Belichick both Phil and I would have totally struck out on the opening weekend. Buffal Oh No! I was nervous about that pick going into the game and they showed us why. Rex Ryan may actually know what he’s doing? And leave it to the New York Football Giants to be the first team in history to lose a slam dunk home opener post Superbowl championship. It’s always interesting here in the northeast where we shrug off losses like these and keep our sights set on the playoffs.

@ New York Giants -7 Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Have to believe the G-Men will rebound this weekend. They can’t start the season 0-2 at home and with an extra three days of rest and preparation, they will come out hungry. I think this Tampa team is much closer to the 10-6 team of two years ago rather than their putrid four wins last season, but this is a really bad spot for them. Victor Cruz dropped a few sure catches last week so you have to be worried about a sophomore slump. HOWEVA, he dropped a couple in the opener at Washington last season and was written off as fans clamored for Steve Smith. How’d that work out? Big Blue will be fine.

@ New England Patriots -13.5 Arizona Cardinals

Oh it is so tempting to say that no NFL team can win by two touchdowns. HOWEVA, these New England Patriots don’t play by those rules. The Cardinals are still trying to figure out who they are and who their quarterback is for that matter, but the Pats know exactly who they are. They are the Superbowl runner-ups (zing). That makes them angry and I almost feel bad for the teams on their schedule. With a revamped defense and an improved running game they will dominate the line of scrimmage, time of possession and, most importantly, the scoreboard.

@ Buffalo Bills -3 Kansas City Chiefs

I may not claim to know very much about the NFL, but I do know that good teams bounce back at home and you should never put too much stock in any individual game. HOWEVA, I didn’t like what I saw at all from the Bills last week. I don’t think they’re a good team, so the first rule doesn’t apply and they looked small compared to the Jets, which doesn’t get better. This KC team remembers what happened last year and after seeing what happened last week they are licking their chops. It’s going to be a rough couple weeks for the Bills, but give it a few weeks for CJ Spiller to really establish himself and for the coaching staff to put together a better game plan. Just not this week.

@ Pittsburgh Steelers -5 New York Jets

Do you think the 2012 Steelers are a good team? I’m really not sold. They are aging defensively and have some serious issues on the offensive line. In many ways they remind me of the New York Giants, but I don’t have a vested interest in their success, so I have my doubts. HOWEVA, I really did like what I saw from the Jets week one and it wasn’t the ground and pound. It was the uptempo short throws with a balanced running attack to set up play action. The defensive front line was unimpressive, but nobody can bring down Big Ben. If Revis plays, I think the Jets can win it. Either way it’s a field goal difference.

-Erik

Think I got them right? Let me know via our twitter (@seeuinoctober) or leave a comment.

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Who Are You and What Did You Do With The New England Patriots?

Ridley’s believe or not, where the Patriots rely on the running game.

Defense and pounding the ball on the ground? What’s that? Do football teams actually do that?

I can imagine that’s what most Patriots fans were thinking on Sunday when the Pats put a 34-13 beatdown on the Tennessee Titans. Was that ever in doubt. I still can’t believe how low that line (-6) was for that game. After week one I’m sure Vegas will be back to putting the Pats up as -17.5 points favorites all season.

So is this new fangled running game part of football? I guess so and for Patriots fans, all kidding aside, it is a welcome sight. The gaudy passing numbers and huge offensive point totals are awesome but the team has been missing a real running threat since that one good season from Corey Dillon. With the LawFirm gone I firmly believed that the Patriots would just ignore the run entirely and throw the ball 98 times a game.

Enter Stevan Ridley who might have had the best day on the ground of any player in the league on Sunday. At least that’s what the fantasy owner that I played this week seemed to think. Ridley had 125 yards on 21 carries and also punched the ball into the end zone once. Now it’s tough to say how much this success will continue after one week against a lousy Tennessee team but getting more production from the ground game would certainly make the Patriots a better team overall.

While Ridley was a nice sign the best sign of the day was the defense. Specifically the rookies. I knew Dont’a Hightower and Chandler Jones were going to be good but hot damn I didn’t think I’d be seeing it week one. Jones absolutely abused whatever schlub was

My excitement for the draft pick of Dont’a Hightower just keeps getting higher.

playing on the outside for Tennessee and had a sack and a forced fumble.( He would have had two sacks if it weren’t for a bogus offsides penalty). Meanwhile Hightower recovered that fumble and brought it back to the house and was just all over the field putting his hat on the ball carrier. I’m not saying that one of them already has the Defensive Rookie of the Year locked up but they have to be No. 1 and No. 2 in the early season rankings right?

Plus Tevin Wilson, the safety drafted out of Illinois 17 rounds to high, had an interception in the game. I’d say this past draft was one of the best in Belichick’s history. Maybe the best since taking a scrawny backup quarterback out of Michigan.

It was also great to see the secondary look healthy, albeit not particularly outstanding. Getting sliced up for 264 yards by Jake Locker and Matt Hasselbeck isn’t exactly dominant. Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung were both back. Chung helped on one of the more violent (still legal) hits in the game that may or may not have left six members of the Titans dead. McCourty had seven tackles and looked pretty good.

And now almost 500 words into this post  it’s time to discuss what is supposed to be the team’s strength; passing the ball.  The offense didn’t really need to put up inhuman numbers this week especially with Ridley running well so Tom Brady’s line (23-for-31, 236 yards, 2 TDs) wasn’t as eye-popping as some might have hoped. (You know like fantasy owners that may have taken him No. 2 overall only to have Matt Ryan outscore him in week one. Guys like that might be a little upset. But I’m not one of those guys. Okay I am that guy.) Even though the numbers look solid Brady didn’t look super sharp for the entirety of the game with a few under throws that were head-scratching. Still he’s Tom Brady so there’s no need to worry, at least not yet.

With Brady having a pretty average day the multitude of weapons he was throwing to had to contend with each other to have a good day. As you might have noticed no receiver was in the Like a Boss discussion and really that was because there wasn’t enough to go around with Ridley running so well. Rob Gronkowski had the best day I suppose (except for the whole messed up spike thing. The next time he gets in the end zone the richter scale might need to be adjusted) with six catches for 60 yards and a touchdown. Aaron Hernandez (six receptions, 59 yards, TD) and Brandon Llloyd (5 receptions, 69 yards) also had solid games. But those guys are all getting paid.

The guy that still wants a long-term deal, Wes Welker, did not have much of a day with only three receptions for 14 yards. That’s normally the opening drive for Wes. Everyone around the Pats, including Welker, are saying it was just how the gameplan went and not anything else but maybe there is more to this contract issue than we think.

With all this said we as sports fans need to remember this is just week one. The positives we saw can’t be blown out of proportion (except Jones and Hightower those guys are legit) and the new-look offense will certainly resemble last years much more often than this reiteration. Overall it’s just nice to get the first win and do so in convincing fashion.

-Phil

How did the Pats look in week one? Is there a change of philosophy occurring in New England? Let us know on Twitter (@seeuinoctober) or in the comments.

 

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Prognostication is my business: Week 1 in the 2012 NFL

Well I certainly don’t like to be wrong, but I’m starting this week off 0-1. The Giants went out on Wednesday and looked like, well the world Champions from last season as only they can. They lost another game they should have one and looked awful doing so. Such is life for fans of Big Blue. Let’s move past that. It’s time to turn on sports again. The Yanks, G-men, Mets and Sox all look fairly equally pitiful right now so how about Gang Green, the Bills and Pats?

New England Patriots (-5.5) at Tennessee Titans

This is a no-brainer. When pro bowl quarterbacks face non pro bowl quarterbacks they win something like 80% of the time. It’s that simple in this game. Bill Belichick and Mr. Brady are never satisfied and will be on a mission this season to show the league that they are the best team in football. And the Titans are starting Jake Locker? Well he might put up some numbers against the porous secondary, but ask Chad Henne how it feels to get into a shootout with the Pats week one. It’s like riding a horse and buggy in a NASCAR race.

Buffalo Bills at New York Jets (-3)

Even as I write this I have no clue how this game will go. Buffalo dropped both their games to Gang Green last season and they really weren’t close in the first meeting and the second time we saw Steve Johnson being Steve Johnson. I have to go with Buffalo because of the way they seem to start the season when they feel confident. I foresee a tough low-scoring and boring affair, but hey anything is better than watching the Yankees this week. I’m thinking somewhere in the area of 17-13. The difference will be a Mark Sanchez interception, which I hate to say because the last thing I want is for the Jets’ backup to take his job. Now I’m reconsidering. Phil and I picked the same teams and last season he resorted to coin flips… should I pick the Jets? Maybe he knew I’d read his post and switch to them. Well played sir. So I’ll pick Rex… Fitz… ummmm. Yes the Bills. Buffalo get ready to start the hype machine another 1-0 start is in your future.

-Erik

Will I redeem myself today? Even if I don’t I’m ready for Sundays on the couch. Let me know what you think via our twitter (@seeuinoctober) or leave us a comment.

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P8triot Questions

The class of the AFC (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

I’ve been saying it all summer as I watched the Red Sox play one of the most embarrassing and cringe inducing seasons in recent memory.

“At least I have the Patriots to look forward to.”

Well this weekend the hope of that  distant future begins and New England sports fans can finally begin to sooth their wounds with a little Foxborough football on Sundays.  See unlike the toxic Red Sox team that I haven’t even watched play an inning in about two months, the Patriots don’t have all that egomania and ridiculousness (like sending a text to management on someone else’s phone like a 13-year old girl). Instead the Patriots montra has always been “Do your job”. Zero locker room incidents just straight wins (homie). Last season with Ochocinco, or whatever the hell he calls him self now,  Chad had no incidents and then he can’t even last through training camp without one in Miami. I don’t know how Belichick does it but he gets his guys to buy in.

So let’s get to the eight (get the headline now?) most pressing or intriguing questions facing the squad.

1. What the hell is going on with the offensive line?

Can’t say I’m one to watch a ton of preseason football. I think I tuned in to about seven minutes total, and four of that was watching the awkward and staged cutting of Ochocinco in Hard Knocks if that counts. Still all I’ve been hearing about the line is that it still has to ‘gel’. Excuse me? The season starts on Sunday isn’t gelling supposed to be going on in training camp when you’re bunking with the guy next to you watching Sportscenter repeats and complaining about the beds that wouldn’t fit a dinosaur?

The Patriots still have Logan Mankins coming back but are trying to fill spots left by Matt Light and Dan Koppen. Brian Waters still hasn’t reported and now his number has been given to someone else. I’ve liked what I’ve seen from Nate Solder and Sebastian Wollmer in the past but those two need to really show up this season. You know because if Brady goes down then we can only go 11-5 with a backup quarterback and just barely miss the playoffs. In other words have a failure of a season.

2. Will the defense really be better?

The PAtriots made it clear in the draft that improving the defense is the teams top priority and why shouldn’t it be? You mean a team that ranked near the bottom of the NFL in total defense and was 31st in pass defense (293.9 ypg) might need some help? Did you know that the 2011 defense gave up more yards than the vaunted offense gained? That the unit got sliced up by such future Hall of Famers as Chad Henne and Ryan Fitzpatrick? Yet still this defense was good enough to get within a breath of a Super Bowl title. Now the squad has added Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower and will be getting some guys like Brandon Spikes and Devin McCourty back to full strength. The defense will (and needs to be) better and not just because when you’re at the bottom all you can do is go up. This unit has the look to be at worst a Top-15 defense.

Dont’a Hightower played for Nick Saban, aka college football’s Bill Belichick last, season

3. Which defensive rookie will have the better season?

I’ll give you a hint. It’s not going to be Alfonzo Dennard or Jake Bequette. This question is more easily translated to is Chandler Jones going to turn into JPP 2.0 and rack up 17 sacks in the first four weeks or is Dont’a Hightower going to team up with Spikes and Jerod Mayo to form the best three-man line backing crew in the NFL? I really, really, really like both of these guys.  I think Jones is the one more likely to have the breakout season. Hightower is going to be competing with some established talent whereas Jones is really going to be the No. 1 guy at defensive end. The Patriots lost top pass rusher Mark Anderson in the offseason and need that hole desperately filled.  My predicted lines for the two guys are 34 tackles, nine sacks for Jones and 88 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 2 INTs for Hightower.

4. Will Wes Welker still be in New England next season?

Rob Gronkowski got paid. Aaron Hernandez got paid. Welker did not get paid. Well alright he signed a $9.5 million franchise tender but that’s a one-year deal not a long-term one he wanted. The man has only pulled in about 781 receptions a season every year (in reality he has led the league in receptions three times with New England, twice pulling in more than 120) and is definitely Brady’s favorite target. But still the Patriots don’t feel like Welker is worth signing long term and I kind of agree with them. Don’t get me wrong I love Welker. Top five Patriot of my lifetime definitely.  His jersey is my game day jersey that I wear every Sunday, so yeah I like the guy.

But I get it. Welker doesn’t do anything that you can’t get from somebody else. He hustles a ton and runs good routes but he doesn’t have size and freakish athletic ability that only comes along once every few years (i.e. Calvin Johnson). Could Julian Edelman or Jeremy Ebert eventually take over his role? Probably. Also if Welker does leave will he be exposed as just a product of a system that just worked perfectly for him. What offense, and what quarterback, really would have been more perfect for Welker over the last few seasons. The answer is none. So even if the Patriots don’t bring him back I don’t really see it coming back to haunt them.

That being said the man has given so much to this team and if the money is there why not pay him? Also got to love this exchange.

5. Is there going to be any run game?

Shane Vereen. Danny Woodhead. Stevan Ridley. Brandon Bolden. Those are the Patriots stable of running backs this season. Guess who has the most rushing yards and rushing attempts on the team? Tom Brady. While Brady is certainly one of the most mobile quarterbacks around that’s not a very awesome running game. With the LawFirm of BenJarvus Green-Ellis the Patriots lost more than just one of the ebst nicknames in sports. They lost a dependable back that never fumbled and punched it in the endzone from a yard out better than anybody. With the passing game as awesome as it is the Patriots haven’t needed a ton from the running game but I’m not sure this group can give us anything. When I play as the Patriots on Madden all I run is shotgun formations and I maybe run it three times a game so my stats at the end of the year are something like 6,981 pass yards, 154 rushing yards. Somehow I think that might be around what the Patriots have this season. My guess is that Ridley and Woodhead are the biggest contributing backs.

6. Will this offense be better than the 2011 version?

Look a number 85 that will actually be an important part of the offense!

With no run game  this question may seem ludicrous. But is it really? The Patriots 2011 squad out gained the amazing 2007 unit and that was without any real semblance of a deep threat. Gronk was the best option they had there but he wasn’t running fly patterns like Moss was in in 07. Enter Brandon Lloyd. Last season Lloyd caught 70 passes for 966 yards and five touchdowns. In 2010 he led the NFL in receiving yards with 1,448 while bringing in 11 scores. He did that all that with Kyle Orton, Tim Tebow, Brady Quinn and Sam Bradford throwing to him. Essentially the guy was an All-Pro receiver despite the lack of talent around him. Now he has the best quarterback in the league (yeah, yeah I can hear your outrage Green Bay fans) throwing to him while he’s surrounded by a ton of other targets that can’t just be forgotten like the receivers he’s played along side in the pass. Oh and remember that season when he led the league in receiving? Guess who is head coach was that year? Josh McDaniels. You know the Patriots current offensive coordinator. What I’m trying to get at is that Lloyd is going to have a monster year.

The only issue the offense may face is trying to find enough receptions for everybody. Gronk, Hernandez, Welker and Llloyd are all 80-plus reception guys and although the Patriots will certainly throw and throw and throw some more, there may be a discrepancy somewhere.

To actually answer the question posed above I think yes. Below are my predictions of the four receivers and Brady’s stat line.

Tom Brady 441-643, 5344 yards, 42 TDs, 11 INTs

Rob Gronkowski 83 receptions, 1219 yards, 11 TDs

Aaron Hernandez 61 receptions, 812 yards, 7 TDs

Wes Welker 90 receptions 1333 yards, 6 TDs

Brandon Llloyd 74 receptions, 1198 yards, 8 TDs

7. How big is the Patriots Super Bowl window?

As long as Brady is still under center is the real answer to this question. As soon as Tom decides he needs to spend more time with the family and just being a boss in other aspects of life the Patriots will come back down to earth. Last season the Patriots almost got another Super Bowl ring, something that has been missing since 2004 and that I (along with every other New England fan) really want to see Brady get. Although I have written extensively that Paul Pierce is my favorite Boston athlete ever, Brady is a very close second. If he gets a fourth ring he will be one of three QBs all-time along with Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana to have accomplish the feat.

So how many more years does Brady have left. He’s 35 this season and although he’s only had one serious injury that doesn’t mean he

I envision a whole lot of Gronk spikes this season.

can play another five years. I think this team has to be in win now mode. If it doesn’t happen in the next two seasons I’m not so sure it will.

8. How will the Patriots ultimately fare this season?

It’s really not even a question whether or not Belichick and the boys will win the AFC East. That is a foregone conclusion as this point. The Patriots also play one of the easiest schedules I’ve seen for a defending conference winner.  There are maybe two or three games I’m slightly concerned about. At Baltimore, vs Houston and either against Denver or the 49ers. Other than that this schedule just looks like a list of wins for New England. So as far as the regular season goes I see the Patriots either repeating at 13-3 or possibly putting up a 14-2 or 15-1 type season. I’ll say 13-3 before my hubris reaches exhaustible levels. (What it already did?)

How this team will be defined is how it does in the playoffs and I’m supposed to be afraid of the ancient defense of Baltimore (minus T Suggs), the exact same team in Pittsburgh, a Texans team that lost Mario Williams and has a QB with the hairline of a 56-year old or the Broncos and Peyton Manning who has exactly one playoff win against the Patriots and that was before this injury thing. Also everyone keeps talking about all the weapons Manning has. Uh when did Eric Decker and Demarvius Thomas  become ‘weapons’? Plus if the Patriots take care of business in the regular season they will be the No. 1 seed with home field throughout.  ‘Nuff said for the second straight season I’m going to pick the Patriots to take the AFC Conference.

-Phil

How would you answer these questions? Are the Patriots the favorites in the AFC? Let us know on Twitter (@seeuinoctober) or in the comments.

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NFL Draft Grades: New England Patriots

Getting in good with the boss-man early. Well played Mr.Jones and Mr. Hightower. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Before we start how about a quick aside? The NFL Draft is an overhyped TV event. The first round is three hours long when you basically already know what’s going to happen or if something different occurs you will be immediately notified by your smartphone or laptop. Why do people like watching it? For the awkward hugs with Goodell and the players. To see the insane suits guys where. To bask in the glow of Mel Kiper’s peak of the year?

Anyway, going into this years NFL Draft I wanted two things.  For the Patriots to stop loading up on late round picks to get value by trading away first round selections. Second for the team to stop worrying about upgrading the offense, it doesn’t need it it’s the defense that needs to improve.

Tom Brady isn’t going to play until he’s 40 whether he’d like to or not and this team has to be in a do whatever it takes to win now mode. Part of that is drafting players who can come in and immediately be contributors not guys who will develop into stars.

Well voila the Patriots did exactly what I wanted and put together the most aggressive draft I’ve seen Bill Belichick put out. In the first round the Patriots traded up not once but twice to lock in two defensive players and then continued to go defense all the way until the teams final pick. No Aaron Hernandez’ this year. No Stevan Ridley’s, even though LaMichael James and Dwayne Allen both stayed on the board for quite some time.

Yes the Patriots followed my two basic ideas, albeit without any real input from me.  (I know I can’t believe they don’t ask me for help either.) Now let’s see if they got the right guys, based on my opinions of them before they even play an NFL snap. I know super fair.

First Round- Pick No. 21- Chandler Jones, DE, Syracuse

Jones was the first guy the Patriots traded up to take and to be honest when I saw the name I drew a blank. Hadn’t heard of him and had no clue why the Patriots were trading up to get him. I still think they probably didn’t need to do that and I know now why I hadn’t heard of him. He played for Syracuse. The Orange may be on the map when it comes to college basketball but it’s been a long time since McNabb was under center and the Carrier Dome had a good football team to watch.

Still Jones has great size (6-5, 266 pounds) and 35.5 inch arms for the defensive end position where the Patriots haven’t had a real solid player since Richard Seymour. Getting pressure on the quarterback is something the Patriots have struggled with in recent years and getting a guy like Jones coming off the edge would be a step in the right direction. Plus his brother is Jon “Bones” Jones the UFC fighter who said of his brother “His swag can’t be touched.” Well I’m sold.

Grade: B+

First Round- Pick No. 25- Dont’a Hightower, LB, Alabama

This was the trade up that made my night in the first round. I watched a decent amount of Alabama football over the last two years, mainly because they were on TV all the time and also because me and my room mates adopted them as our team after purchasing a lamp that had the Alabama logo on it in a garage sale.

In watching ‘Bama I was always really impressed with Hightower. He moves quickly, hits like a ton of bricks and is versatile enough to play just about every spot in the linebacking core, regardless or whether or not the Patriots go 4-3 or return to the 3-4 next season. Another exciting aspect about Hightower is that he is definitely a guy that will come in and make an immediate impact. He played in the NFL’s minor leagues (aka the SEC) and will probably be starting come Game One.

Grade. A++++++ Roll Tide.

Second Round- Pick No. 48- Tavon Wilson, S, Illinois

Uhh okay. After a fantastic first round came this pick. Now I want Tavon to come in and be great but this seems like on of those Belichick moves where he is so busying trying to outsmart everybody else that he over thinks himself. Perhaps Tavon will be a great safety but he didn’t seem like he was in danger of being taken this high in the draft with so many other talented players left on the board.

Now that doesn’t mean there isn’t stuff to like about him. He like Hightower is versatile as hell and can play safety or corner which will be nice with the Patriots seemingly always weak in that position. See Julian Edelman getting time at cornerback last year.

Grade C-. Just didn’t like how high he was taken.

Third Round- Pick No. 90- Jake Bequette, DE, Arkansas

Another SEC player and a pass rusher is a nice sight. Hopefully there will be no rubbing off from Bobby Petrino on this kid. Bequette had a great combine by putting up 6.90 in the three-cone drill and a 4.07 shuttle which is better than many running backs. So at 6-4, 275 pounds he will certainly be a quick defender. Plus he can also slide in at OLB and has been described as hard working, high football IQ and all that stuff which essentially means he won’t rely solely on being more athletic than everyone.

Grade B.

Round Six- Pick No. 197- Nate Ebner, SS, Ohio State

Coming straight out of THE Ohio State University is this former rugby star who hadn’t really been anticipated as a draft pick. Although he is listed as a strong safety he probably has a better chance making it in special teams. He is obviously tough (rugby is no joke) and should be motivated coming into camp.

Grade C+. When your ceiling is solid special teams guy it’s tough to get too high a grade even in the later rounds.

Round Seven- Pick No. 224- Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska

Everything I’ve heard about this kid is that he has second round talent but dropped due to some legal issues. He was arrested the weekend before the draft after all, not exactly showing great decision making but with his talent Dennard might end up being a big steal.  He was cutting his chops in the Big-12 and then Big 10 meaning he’s faced some big time receivers (Justin Blackmon for example) and he can play in the slot.

Grade B+ Great value pick but off-field issues can’t just be thrown aside.

Round Seven- Pick No. 235- Jeremy Ebert, WR, Northwestern

And it is with Ebert that the Patriots draft of defense ends. To be honest this is my favorite pick other than Hightower. Ebert isn’t a flashy reciever, he’s small and quick and a reliable pass catcher who holds a bunch of receiving records at a small school in a power conference., Remind you of anyone? To me Ebert can come in and work on being the same type of receiver as Wes Welker. (By the way the fact that the Patriots haven’t signed Welker is insulting and concerning.)

Maybe he won’t be a contributor right away but will definitely be a guy on the roster who will develop. Perhaps Mallett to Ebert will be the next Brady tom Welker.

Grade A.

-Phil

How did you think the Patriots’ draft went? Let us know on Twitter (@seeuinoctober) or in the comments.

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What Has To Be Done

This game means more than that trophy. (Photo credit: patriots.com)

Our loyal readers may have noticed that all this week this blog has been dedicated to why the Giants are going to win the Super Bowl this Sunday and to slamming the Patriots left and right with exclusively anti-New England trash talk. These readers may have been thinking; Where is that guy that writes about the Patriots? Why is he taking this lying down? Has this just become a blog about New York sports?

There is a perfectly good explanation for why the Patriots boasting and trash talking has been mute from this site. As much as it pains me to say the New England Patriots do not have anything to stand when it comes to verbal volleys with the Giants and their fans. In the last two games these teams have met the Giants have won including the excruciating loss in Super Bowl 42. It doesn’t matter if the Patriots won three rings earlier in the decade or that they have the better record this season. The Giants have the wins and the Patriots don’t. If the Patriots were playing the  49ers or the Packers or any other team I’d have no problem spouting out profanity laced insults against the the other team and claiming the game for New England. But not in this one. It sucks but that’s how it is. No matter how many jabs any New England fan takes at Eli, Coughlin or any other member of Big Blue it doesn’t mean anything unless the Patriots win on Sunday.

Make no mistake this could quite possibly be the biggest sporting even in Boston sports since the Red Sox took the World Series in 2004. (Okay not exactly the longest stretch ever but you get my point). There is so much hanging in the balance in this game. Eradicating the ghosts of the 18-1 debacle is the first part. (Granted this game will not make up for that Super Bowl loss but it will certainly make it less painful to remember). Then there is the legacy of Tom Brady. Brady is a lock for Canton and will go down as one of the top five QBs of all time regardless of the outcome. However Brady has not played well in the playoffs (except for the evisceration

It's all on Brady in this one. (Photo Credit: patriots.com)

against that JV squad from Denver) since that Super Bowl I’m tired of mentioning. A loss here won’t destroy his reputation by any means but it won’t help it either. On the other side if Brady wins he becomes only the third quarterback in NFL history to win four Super Bowls and essentially takes the mantle as best quarterback in the last decade, if not all-time.  Then there is the legacy for coach Bill Belichick, who is already hands down the best coach of the last decade. However a win here brings the Hooded One into the discussion of the all-time great coaches, not just in football but in American sports history. Auerbach, Wooden, Jackson, Lombardi, Connie Mack, Casey Stengel, La Russa you know those kind of names.

With all that said it has been a week of hell for me. I have tried as best I could to avoid all coverage of this game because ever ytime I think about it I get that heart in my throat feeling that should be reserved for a game ending drive or the bottom of the ninth in Game 7 of the World Series. I didn’t want to hear about predictions or stats that favor one team or another or what matchups are most important. I just wanted to ignore the game until 6:29 p.m. Sunday.

A major reason for this is, as much as it shames me to say this, I don’t have any confidence entering this game. I said similar things against Denver but I hand more of an inkling of dread in that one that went away in the first quarter. Not in this one. The Patriots are 13-3 this season but didn’t beat any team over .500 until scraping by the Ravens in the AFC Championship game in which Brady played horrendously. The defense has looked better but is still allowing too many yards and that was against Tim Tebow and Joe Flacco not Eli and the three headed receiving monster in New York. On top of that the Patriots already lost to the Giants this season, at home, when New York was not riding the momentum of three straight playoff wins.  Now they’ll be playing the G-Men in a stadium that according to most reports will be filled with Giants fans and venomous Colts fans who hate New England.  That doesn’t exactly spell favorable circumstances. So its not a matter of why the Patriots will win its what do they need to do to win.

Protect Brady

This is paramount. Jason Pierre-Paul called out Brady this week for being affected by pressure that wasn’t there in the regular season matchup this season. The Patriots have a stellar offensive line and its needs to keep the suddenly hot Giants pass rush at bay because, and correct me if I’m wrong, the last time these teams met in the Super Bowl the defensive line ran wild and kept the then perfect Patriots offense to just 14 points.

Gronkowski has to be healthy

A few Gronk spikes this weekend would be nice. (Photo credit: patriots.com)

I realize this isn’t something that can be controlled but Gronk has got to play, or at least be on the field.  The Patriots offense is significantly worse if Gronk doesn’t play. He is so vital in the passing game and the running game. He is dangerous in the red zone and with the Giants not exactly stacked at linebackers will be able to get open to help ease the pressure on Brady. Yo Soy Fiesta? Si but yo quiero healthy ankle. (My spanish is a little rusty).

The defense has to force some turnovers

The Patriots defense has been better recently and that’s encouraging but it is still built on a bend don’t break philosophy and without creating some mishaps by the Giants there may be a lot more break than bend. Whether it’s a fumble or an interception at some point the Patriots will need to force the Giants to make a mistake.

Wilfork must continue to plug up the middle and the D-line has to get pressure

This includes wrapping up players at the line of scrimmage and giving no extra yards. The Patriots really need to make the Giants one dimensional by taking away the already weak running game, and then must hobble that one dimension by getting after Eli. With the receivers the Giants have and the porous secondary of the Patriots if he has time they will get open.

The Patriots can’t settle for field goals

I’m not saying if its fourth and seven on the 28 that New England should be going for it but New England can’t win this game unless the offense is clicking and lighting up the scoreboard. The Patriots defense isn’t strong enough (or at least it hasn’t been yet) to hold three  point leads.

All these things pale in comparison to the No. 1 one thing the Patriots need in this game.

Tom Brady has to kick the awfulness of the game against Baltimore. He has to come out and stand up in the pocket and make every throw. He has to hit every open receiver and make the definitive statement that Brees might have gotten the record, and Rodgers might be the MVP but I am the best quarterback in football.  He must be the Tom Brady that throws five touchdown passes in a half and looks as if he is toying with the defense. Not whatever version we saw against Baltimore and last time against the Giants.

So now to the picks. I say picks because I am making two.

The impartial pick- Giants 28 Patriots 20.

The-I-Can’t-Pick-Against-My-Team-In-The-Super-Bowl-Because-I-Still-Somehow-Believe-Pick- Patriots 23 Giants 20.

May the Hooded One strike me down for my lack of faith but that is how I’m feeling.

By the way I’m watching this game in New Jersey with a room full of Giants, and Eagles fans still sore about the 2004 Super Bowl. Win or lose I may not be alive on Sunday.

-Phil

Who’s winning the Super Bowl? Is my lack of faith disturbing? Let us know on Twitter (@seeuinoctober) or in the comments.

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Welcome To Foxborough, Now Get Out

I think the Patriots may not be swallowed up in Tebow-mania.

What was I worried about?

On Saturday I wrote that I was nervous for the Patriots Divisional playoff with Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos. As the game began I felt my stomach tighten and sweat form on my brow. Then  two minutes later I watched Tom Brady throw a strike to Wes Welker for a touchdown and I completely forgot what I was nervous about. When the Patriots went up 14-0 on a Brady to Gronk touchdown pass I laughed out loud. It was then that I knew the game was over. The Patriots offense looked unstoppable and even if the Broncos could figure out how to move the ball they are a team built on running the ball and would never be able to keep up with Brady and Co. The Patriots looked heads, shoulder, knees, ankles and whatever other body part you want to throw in, better than Denver in every facet of the game.

On offense the Patriots did what they do best. Give Brady the ball and let him sling it around the field to his tight ends. Brady threw a ridiculous five touchdown passes in the first half and six in the game which tied a playoff record. In an act of mercy not usually shown by Bill Belichick Brady did end up throwing double digit touchdowns as NEw England just cruised through the second half.  In a weekend in which Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees, the two quarterbacks who have gotten all the talking time on NFL preview shows this season fell, Brady reminded everyone who the best quarterback in football is. Sure Brees and Rodgers may have played better squads but five touchdowns in a half is impressive even if the only defense the Broncos through out there were the faith and prayers of Tim Tebow. Brady made all the right throws including a 61 yard touchdown pass to Deion Branch. He could not have thrown that pass any better. I don’t know if it was Brady being tired of being snubbed for Tim Tebow all week, or being fed up with losing in the playoffs or it was Brady being the best quarterback out there but he looked other worldly.

This guy? Yeah he's pretty good.

It’s not just Brady who dserves credit on the offense, although he deserves most of it. Rob Gronkowski had yet another insane game catching 10 balls for 145 yards and three scores including a diving, bobbling catch in the corner of the end zone in the second quarter. (That description might not be specific enough for you since he caught all three in the second quarter). Aaron Hernandez got it done receiving the ball (4 receptions, 55 yards and a touchdown) but was even more impressive in running the ball especially on the teams opening drive when he ran the ball 43 yards to set up the Brady to Welker touchdown. Speaking of players breaking the mold Brady also took on a different position when he had a punt that would have made Shane Lechler jealous.

On defense the Patriots played one of their strongest games of the season. IF Jim Nantz had mentioned the word ‘negative play’ one more time I think it would have broken some kind of record. The Patriots did exactly what the Steelers couldn’t do a week ago. They kept everything in front of them and challenged Tebow to beat them on underneath timing patterns. Willis McGahee ran the ball well, and did so after first contact but you can’t make up a 30 point differential on the ground. The Patriots did a great job of putting some pressure on the already baffled Tebow.  The Pats had five sacks as a team. Helping the defense was the return of Pat Chung and Brandon Spikes who had missed a huge chunk of the season, after being major contributors last season.

It was a huge win for the Patriots but this team obviously has bigger things on its mind. The defense still has to prove it can be consistent enough, but with Brady looking as focused as ever and the best coach in football on the sidelines the Patriots will go into the AFC Championship with just as good a shot, if not better, than anyone at partying in Indianapolis.

-Phil

Are the Patriots the favorite to win the Super Bowl or was the win over the Broncos a mirage? Let us know on Twitter (@seeuinoctober) or in the comments.

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Judgement Day

Who's that guy on the right? Three time Super Bowl Champion and two time MVP Tom Brady? Never heard of him-ESPN

When I watched the Denver Broncos play the Pittsburgh Steelers game last week I was rooting for the Broncos. Not because I have some weird attachment to Denver or because I am on the Tebow Train but because I thought the Broncos would be an easier draw than the Steelers.  When the Broncos won in miraculous fashion I was equally as shocked/impressed as most of the US football watching population. I was also pleased, initially, thinking well the road to the Super Bowl just got easier.

Now I’m not so sure and as a Boston fan I don’t feel like I’m alone. Should the Pats win this game? Yes all logic says they should, but we’ve seen this move before. Patriots fans have two devastating losses in playoff games they were supposed to win. The Super Bowl that shall not be named. (You know the one with the helmet catch). The Patriots beat the Giants in the regular season and then lost in the game that would have cemented the greatest single season in NFL history. Then there was last year which is even more relevant. The Pats beat the feet loving hell out of the Jets in the regular season. Going into the divisional playoff round in New England all signs pointed to a win for the Patriots and yet they lost.

Now this week everything points to a Patriots win but there’s that lingering doubt with those playoff wounds still fresh in New England fans minds.  But this time it’s been slightly different. Somehow the Patriots, who are still -13.5 points favorites,  seem to be flying under the radar. (In fact that seems to be the trend of this Divisional Round. Who cares that the Packers went 15-1? The Giants beat the Falcons and remember they won the Super Bowl 4 years ago because that affects this matchup.) ESPN has finally stopped it’s obsession with LeBron and the Miami Heat but has traded it in for a fancy new model: Tim Tebow. Other than PTI every talking head show mentions Tim Tebow at least 14 times per minute. Stories about everything from his high school coaches to the man who sold him a Gatorade from a gas station one time lead Sportscenter over actual sporting events. According to ESPN there is one playoff game this week and no others. And unlike before that Super Bowl I won’t mention and last years debacle against the Jets, thee are a number of analysts who are saying that there’s a chance the Broncos can pull off this win.

Is the man who drafted Tebow going to give the Pats an edge?

(Also if the Patriots lose this game we will be hearing about Tim Tebow for the next 4.5 million years on ESPN. I won’t be able to watch SportsCenter for the next couple of months. It will be Super Bowl 42 all over again.)

So really I don’t know what to think. With the thought that Tim Tebow might be the second coming and the Patriots essentially playing the villain in every sports movie (outside of the ones where a band of scrappy urban kids defeat racism by playing basketball) ever, I just can’t get a read on this game.

But let’s remember;

1- The Patriots trashed the Broncos when they met in the regular season. Tom Brady lit up the Broncos defense for 41 points. Aaron Hernandez went wild catching nine balls for 129 yards in a game when Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski were hled somewhat at bay. That game was in Denver and now the Patriots get to play them at home.

2- Tim Tebow had his best game as a quarterback last week against Pittsburgh and he still completed less than 50 percent of his passes.

3- The Steelers were a team banged up with injuries. Ben Roethlisberger could barely move in the pocket let alone throw accurate passes and Mike Tomlin pushed every one up to stop the run and left his secondary exposed with no help over the top which allowed Tebow to just chuck deep balls, and not attempt to complete timing patterns or throws that require better accuracy, a mistake Bill Belichick will learn from and not make.

4- The Broncos still only managed to scrape out a 23-20 victory against a team with a poor defensive strategy and an offensive missing its best weapon (Reshard Mendenhall) that was run by a quarterback limited to as much athletic ability as Kevin from The Office with papier-mâché ankles.

5- The New England Patriots won 13 games this season with Tom Brady having an historically great season and they still have the best coach in football on the sidelines in Belichick.

Now I’m coming back to my senses if only the knotts in my stomach would do the same.

The Pick: New England 38 Denver 24

-Phil

P.S. Here’s how the rest of the weekend goes. Saints take down the 49ers in a close one. Ravens roll over Houston. Packers win by 10 over the Giants.

Should the Patriots be worried against the Broncos? Are you tied of hearing about Tebow on ESPN? Let us know on Twitter (@seeuinoctober) or in the comments.

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