Tag Archives: Rob Gronkowski

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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Tale of Two Halves

Nothing like a 52-point beatdown to get those spirits up. (patriots.com)

It was the worst of times and then it was the best of times.

For the first half and beginning of the third quarter in Sunday’s game against Buffalo the Patriots looked as if the wheels were seriously falling off and that despite all the talent on the roster, a 1-3 start was in the future. Then someone flipped on a switch and suddenly that same Patriots team that could only manage seven points in the first half erupted and laughed it’s way to a 45-point half.

All in all the game ended with the Patriots getting back to .500 with a 52-28 thumping of the Bills that included a 31-point outburst in the fourth quarter.

The usual suspects were involved in the offensive onslaught. Tom Brady looked like the Tom Brady completing 22-of-36 passes for 340 yards and three scores. He made throws all over the field. The short dumps to Woodhead and Welker. The deep throws to the outside to Brandon Llloyd and the deep seams to Gronk. He even dazzled us with his glorious mobility and speed with a whopping FOUR yard rushing touchdown in the third quarter.

Speaking of Welker, I guess all that hoopla about him being phased out was just that. In his last three games he has 22 receptions for

Only three catches, for 50 yards and a touchdown for B-Llloyd. But that was really all that was needed. (patriots.com)

366 yards including the nine-catch, 129 effort he had against the Bills. Some people will mention that his production has only gone up with Aaron Hernandez and Julian Edelman out but  it’s looney tunes to think that Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels decided to put more trust in a guy who was getting arrested for groping chicks last season than Wee Wes, the man for whom a 100-reception season is just another Thursday.

Production wise Gronk looked like his old self again as well. In fact we even got a GRONK SPIKE in this one. He caught a 28-yard pass early in the fourth for the score and with all his momentum carrying him into the end zone he just did one of the sprinting spikes. That is my second favorite type of spike he has done with the top one being when he shakes the ball a little, does some sort of stanky leg impression and then hurls it at the turf like the Hulk taking care of Loki at the end of The Avengers. In the first half though Gronk looked a little lost. He dropped a few passes including a sure touchdown (albeit he was hit during it) and fumbled. He also caught five of 11 total targets. Still it was nice to see him be a tight end and not just a very expensive decoy.

But where the offense continues to be surprising is in the running game. Really this game was won with a balanced offensive attack. GASP. Stevan Ridley and Brandon Bolden seemingly ran wherever and whenever theywanted all day on that expensive Bills defense. What’s that Mario Williams? Oh this undrafted free agent from Ole Miss is just going to light it up for 137 yards and a touchdown with a stunning 8.7 yards-per-carry average.  Meanwhile Ridley will punch it in twice and pick up 106 yards himself.  The production of these two has me forgetting all about the LawFirm (who by the way is averaging 3.5 yards per carry in Cincy).

Defensively fans need to get used to this team giving up too many yards and third down conversions. It just seems like the way Belichick has this team playing, where it doesn’t allow anything deep and then tightens up in the red zone is how its going to be. Getting lit up for 438 total yards (350 passing) against Ryan Fitzpatrick who couldn’t throw a 20-yard out pattern if he was playing Madden, is concerning but it seems to be more scheme than ineffectiveness.

Where the team has excelled is against the run where the Patriots currently rank eighth in the NFL. Against Buffalo the team allowed the Buffalo backs to pick up only 3.6 yards per carry while giving up only three runs of 10 or more yards and four first downs on the ground. Also a major strength has been the defense’s ability to wait for a team to make a mistake and pounce. Like when Vince Wilfork got a rare clear shot at a ball carrier when the Bills ran a screen pass. Usually Big Vince his still scrapping with an offensive linemen with his right arms while dragging a running back or whoever has the ball down with the left. On that play though he had a wide open shot and absolutely blew Donald Jones Up. Brandon Spikes also needs to get alot of credit in this game as he forced two fumbles while Devin McCourty had a 2010-type game with a pair of interceptions.

Here comes the BOOM! (patriots.com)

In rookie watch, Chandler Jones continues to be a beast. The rook had five tackles including two for a loss and a sack. Dont’a Hightower had a less impactful game (two tackles) than were used to seeing but with how well Spikes played it wasn’t as big a deal.

So the Patriots are now 2-2 and tied for the top spot in the East (with the circus that is the New York Jets and the same Bills team they just ripped to shreds). Hopefully this begins a period of best of times that lasts until early February. The next step for that involves some guy named Peyton and the Denver Broncos.

-Phil

Relieved to see the Patriots look so dominant, even it was for just one half? 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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Seeing (Cardinal) Red

Could not better illustrate a picture being worth a thousand words. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Is it ever possible for the Patriots to lose a game that doesn’t leave me feeling the need to kick through my TV screen and toss it into oncoming traffic while my body deals with an elevated blood pressure than rivals the Hulk?

Sunday tells me  not. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want the Patriots to lose. At all. Ever. But when they do does it always have to be so soul crushing? I realize this was only week two of the regular season but in this game I went from optimism (first few minutes), to concern (second and early third), to begrudging acceptance of a loss (Down 20-9 in fourth quarter), to maybe there’s a chance (Gronk’s TD with a little over two minutes left), to HOLY S*** THEY FUMBLED IT! (pretty self explanatory), to HELL YEAH WOODHEAD, followed quickly by several expletives about replacement officials (When Gronk was called for holding on what would have been the game winning touchdown), to calming down and realizing a field goal wins in (next couple plays) until we finally arrived at soul-crushed when Stephen Gostkowski missed a 42-yarder effectively ending the game.

At the end of it all the Patriots lost their first home opener at Gillette and fell to 1-1.

But that wasn’t the only horrendously terrible thing to happen in the game. Early in the first quarter the second member of the Patriots’ unbelievable tight end tandem, Aaron Hernandez, suffered an ankle injury and was taken out of the game. Now he is going to miss ‘a few weeks’. And there is no way we will know how long that is until he is on the field in whatever week he returns. Seriously, the Patriots should be giving the White House and CIA lessons on how to protect confidential information with how open they are about personnel and injury updates.

So all in all Sunday was a pretty terrible day for Bill Belichick and Company that left Patriots fans with more concerns than the previous week.

It’s not as awesome when wide left happens to your team (patriots.com)

Primary among those is on offense. With the return of Josh McDaniels to offensive coordinator (the same guy that coordinated the record crushing 2007 squad) to an already Heisenberg-blue-crystal level potency and the addition of Brandon Llloyd going into this season it seemed like the Patriots were set to have one of the best passing offenses ever or at least in the NFL this season.

So far the results have been less than spectacular. The Patriots are ranked eighth in the NFL so far this season in passing yards and on Sunday yet again looked out of sync. Tom Brady just doesn’t look as sharp as we’re used to seeing. He’s missing passes he usually hits and although he threw for 316 yards, in the first half he didn’t look like he would get to 200. Brady also seems to be trying too hard to spread the ball around, especially to Llloyd who he consistently threw to even when No. 85 wasn’t exactly open.

Wes Welker finally got into the game after not starting once Hernandez went down which is also a concern. I am not one to believe it has anything to do with his contract situation but is it possible that Wes has lost a step? That the squad liked what they saw from Julian Edelman more in the preseason? I am not sure but I am honestly expecting a 12-catch 140-yard effort from Wes in one of the next few weeks causing us all to do a complete 180. Until that happens though I’d be lying if his lack of playing time wasn’t concerning.

Then there is the Patriots suddenly ardent reliance on the run. The game against Arizona was one of the more conservatively called games by the offense I’ve seen in a long time. Stevan Ridley erupted in week one and suddenly Belichick’s handing him the keys to the offense? Quite often it seemed like the Patriots would get a good drive going and then just stall on third down because they would run a draw out of the shotgun on third and eight. That kind of play calling was a major contributor to why the Patriots lost despite out gaining Arizona (387-245) and picking up more first down (25-16) as the team went just 1-for-3 in the red zone.

I just don’t understand it. As the team’s one touchdown drive showed this team can be positively unstoppable on offense when it wants to be. Even though he hasn’t looked as stellar until proven otherwise Tom Brady is one of, if not the best quarterbacks in the NFL. But the Patriots don’t even have to worry about that because he is unquestionably the best player on the Patriots.  Why then is he not allowed to chuck the ball around the field like he did on that last drive while using the run as a compliment? Now some people might be confused because Brady threw the ball 46 times in the game while the Patriots ran it 28 times. However 20 of those pass attempts came in the fourth quarter which just happened to be the only quarter the Patriots offense scored a touchdown.

Chandler Jones is the Truth…wait someone already has that nickname. (patriots.com)

It makes no sense. The 90s Bulls weren’t pounding the ball in the low post to Luc Longley and waiting until the fourth quarter to let MJ  start shooting jump shots and dunking on fools. To me a simple way to win is to give the ball to your best player.

The head-scratching offense took away what should have been another week of praising the retooled defense. Hernandez’s injury, Welker’s playing time and Brady’s slow start have all been much more prominent than a Patriots defense that is currently ranked second in the NFL in total defense. Granted the Patriots have played the Titans and Cardinals (who despite being 2-0 I still think aren’t very good) but that is still a marked improvement from last season. Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower have been as good as advertised and Jerod Mayo continues to just pile up tackles while the return of Brandon Spikes has been a welcome sight.  The secondary is still a bit suspect but Patrick Chung and surprisingly Tavon Wilson have played well at safety and it needs to be reiterated that the Patriots gave up 20 points to the Cardinals with one touchdown drive coming from two yards out and it still took the Cardinals three plays to get in.

Normally I don’t mention special teams but that was really what lost the game but also what kept the Patriots within striking distance. Gostkowski’s missed field goal hurts but he nailed 4-of-4 before that including a 53-yarder. Should he have been able to knock in that last one? Yes but without him the Patriots aren’t close in that game. The blocked punt though was inexcusable. It led to a the touchdown that was the difference in the game. That blocked punt doesn’t happen and the Patriots win this game, in ugly fashion, but still win it.

So while this loss hurt and certainly didn’t make New England fans feel great some perspective helps. This loss was an ugly one where the Patriots played pretty terribly, at least offensively, and a big part of that might have been the loss of Hernandez messing up the original game plan. Even with all the errors and bad play the Patriots still probably should have won this game. Losing sucks but remember that you lose four times in a season you still end up having a great year. This to me just seems like one of those four.

-Phil

What’s your level of concern for the Patriots? Let us know on Twitter (@seeuinoctober) or in the comments.

 

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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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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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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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The Pro Bowl Roster

This year two of the four SeeYouInOctober teams are in the Super Bowl. We couldn’t have asked for a better match up than a Super Bowl 42 rematch. There have been some tremendous individual performances from players on all four teams and many have been rewarded with selections to this year’s Pro Bowl. Let’s take a look at who will dance the hula in Honolulu.

New England Patriots

With a 13-3 record this season it is no surprise that eight players were selected for this year’s Pro Bowl. Anyone who has paid attention for the NFL for even a second this season could name at least three without even having to think about it: Tom Brady, Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski. These guys proved lethal in New England’s high octane passing offense with Welker finishing second in the league behind Calvin Johnson for most receiving yards and Gronkowski setting a record for touchdowns by a tight end in a single season. For Mr. Brady it was just another stellar season in his hall of fame career. He was second in yards (Drew Brees was first), third in quarterback rating and fourth in touchdowns. Of course for skill position players to have such success it starts with a solid line. Guards Logan Mankins and Brian Waters were each honored for their play this season.

However none of this really matters. The best offensive players in the NFL will all be watching this game as the continue to prepare for the Super Bowl next

Gronk has been a smash hit for the Pats.

Sunday and with Belichick you know there will be a ton of prep. Brady was replaced by the AFC’s rookie phenom the Red Rifle aka Andy Dalton, while his tight end Jermaine Gresham will replace Gronk. The receiver slot vacated by Wee Wes Welker will be taken by the Chargers’ Vincent Jackson and the two guard spots went to Ben Grubbs of Baltimore and Brandon Moore of the Jets, whom we will talk about a little later.

Despite the massive amount of yards given up by this defense, the Patriots were in the middle of the pack in terms of scoring defense. Their “bend but don’t break” style of play has rewarded them as they only play better in the playoffs and down the stretch in the regular season. Would you believe that with as many injuries and yards as they suffered the Pats have two guys named to the pro bowl on the defensive side of the ball? One is fairly obvious: Vince Wilfork. The big man was nominated for a Like a Boss award last week for his stellar performance against Ray Rice (Pro Bowler) and the Baltimore Ravens. This season the nose tackle was a beast up the middle getting pressure on quarterbacks and stuffing the run at the line. He even had two interceptions and treated fans to his running skills on a 28 yard run back. Defensive end Andre Carter also got the nod for the Pats. He collected 10 sacks this year, including a four-sack-feast of the Jets Mark Sanchez. It’s Indy for these two so Paul Soliai of the Dolphins will fill in for Wilfork and the Texans’ Antonio Smith will cover for Carter.

New York Jets

The Jets were a disappointment this season. A disappointment to Rex Ryan, everyone who picked them to the Super Bowl and all their fans. The only people who weren’t even a little disappointed were Patriots fans. Maybe Santonio Holmes, who didn’t seem like he cared much about anything at all. Despite their lack of success, four Jets will suit up this weekend for one last game. None of their skill position players made the cut with an extremely poor offensive output this year and it is surprising any players were named from the offensive side of the ball. Three of the Jets’ linemen were named with D’Brickishaw Ferguson,

Really? Three of these guys are Pro Bowlers? Why not just put them all in?

Nick Mangold and Brandon Moore making the cut. It is difficult to judge how well offensive lineman really play, especially for the fans. Experts have time to pour over hours of footage and watch specific match ups to see who is the best, but it would seem to me that Mangold and Ferguson made the roster based on reputation. You always make the pro bowl one year too late (Victor Cruz) and one year longer than you should, I heard an analyst say on ESPN. With an offense that struggled to run the ball and gave up the fifth most sacks in the league, it is difficult to imagine there were three Pro Bowlers on that line. Unless you put it all on Sanchez and the play calling, which many people do.

For the Gang Green defense Darrelle Revis will be the lone representative. Even though Revis Island was a little more luxurious this season, he still had a very good year. Out of the 21 passes he defended, Revis came away with four picks and only gave up one touchdown.

New York Giants

The Giants have had an extremely inconsistent season placing themselves squarely behind the eight ball with an upcoming contest against the Cowboys for an NFC East division title. The entire team has caught the injury bug and suffered through the season with a patchwork offensive line, a revolving door secondary and rookie receivers making a big splash. All of these factors in addition to the fourth quarter comebacks gave quarterback Eli Manning the edge over Tony Romo, Cam Newton and Mathew Stafford for the third spot on the roster. There is no argument about the two guys ahead of Manning as both Brees and Rodgers are equally deserving of the MVP this season, but the snubs can be argued. Manning has thrown for more yards than both Stafford and Romo, but lacks in almost every other statistical category. However, without a running game or a pro bowl pass catcher, Manning has shown he is a leader and made more with less talent. The third roster spot previously occupied by Manning went to rookie phenom Cam Newton. So Stafford got double snubbed? Not any of our concern really.

Many have argued that Manning does have a pro bowler to throw to in rookie Victor Cruz. Number 80 out of UMass has been singled out as one of the biggest

SNUB!

snubs on the NFC side of things as he has had an amazing first year. Cruz is currently third in the league in yards with 1358 behind only Wes Welker and Megatron (both pro bowlers) and ahead of Larry Fitzgerald and Steve Smith (also pro bowlers). His eight touchdown receptions place him in the top 10 in the league for touchdown receptions among wide receivers as well. The problem for Cruz is that he doesn’t have the pedigree and while he may have out performed the guys chosen ahead of him, on some level it is a popularity contest. Maybe next season Cruz will do the hula instead of the salsa and then everybody will know he deserves the selection.

Defensively Big Blue will send one player to Hawaii and it is no surprise and nobody will argue with the selection. Jason Pierre Paul has been a monster for the Giants pass rush and he was rewarded for his outstanding season. JPP has a signature moment to go along with his 15.5 sacks when he blocked the potential game tying field goal in Dallas. He has become a household name this season and gotten a lot of talk on Sports Center. It’s tough to ignore the speed, strength and long arms that make quarterbacks scared to take the field on Sunday. The Giants have produced yet another pro bowl defensive end as JPP has had to pick up the slack with Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyora both MIA due to injuries or poor play. Similar to Manning he has carried his squad and helped bring the Giants to the Super Bowl and unlike Cruz, in his second year people were keeping an eye on JPP. Too bad offensive lineman still can’t stop him. Julius Peppers will be playing in JPP’s stead (If you can’t get JPP might as well go for JP).

I’m sure Victor Cruz is feeling a lot better about the snub since he won’t be able to play in the game anyway with the impending Super Bowl. None of the G-Men will suit up this Sunday and that is just fine. Who would have guessed when the roster was announced that out of Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Eli Manning it would be Manning who would have to miss the game because his team was going to the Super Bowl? Not many. While Big Blue only had two Pro-Bowlers this season, they are tied with the Patriots for most Super Bowlers and that is something nobody would trade.

Buffalo Bills

Not surprisingly the Bills, who are out of playoff contention, failed to have a player make the pro bowl roster. If their were a first half pro bowl Buffalo would have had a quarterback and running back on the starting squad. As it is the AFC looks particularly weak at signal caller with Philip Rivers taking the third spot

Injury cut short a Pro Bowl year for Fred Jackson

behind Tom Brady and Ben Rothlisberger. Ryan Fitzpatrick is 10th in the league with 22 touchdown passes, one better than Big Ben. The biggest difficulty Fitzmagic has had is differentiating between his receivers and opposing defenses. Fitzy is atop this category with 19 picks on the year tied with Rivers among others. If the Bills hadn’t taken such a nose dive in the second half of the season it would have been a close competition between Rivers and Fitzpatrick for the third spot.

If is the key word for the Bills this season. If Fred Jackson hadn’t gotten injured, he would have been the starting running back for the AFC. Before breaking his leg Fred-Ex delivered yards both on the ground and through the air and was atop the league in combined yards. He was having a great season and could have been considered a contender for the illustrious conversation of non-quarterback MVP candidates. He carried the Bills to their hot start then when teams  started taking him out of the game, the entire team struggled. With Fred-Ex sidelined CJ Spiller has a chance to step up as the feature back. Perhaps next year Spiller will be the pro bowl candidate.

Does anybody even watch the Pro Bowl? We won’t be watching this year with the Pats and G-Men headed to Indy! Let us know if you’ll be watching via our twitter (@seeuinoctober) or leave us a comment.

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Some Way, Shape or Form. Still Super.

Vince Wilfork was big in this one. Well I guess he's always big but you know what I mean.

I feel bad for the people that live in my apartment complex. If they were hoping for a leisurely and quiet Sunday afternoon, that didn’t happen especially between 3 and 6:30 p.m. EST. I went back and forth between thinking the Patriots were definitely going to win to thinking that I wasn’t going to be able to watch ESPN for a  month to avoid glimpsing a highlight from a Ravens win at least 5603195 times or thereabouts.

The worst of it came in the second half. When the Ravens went up 20-16 by scoring 10 unanswered I was sure it was all over. Then Tom Brady looked like he punched it into the end zone and I got that hope back. But that touchdown got reversed so I panicked. A play later on fourth down Brady hopped into the end zone and I unleashed fist pump that was powerful enough to knock out the Hulk. When Brandon Spikes intercepted a pass on the Ravens next drive I started to breathe again, something I don’t think I had done for two hours. However on the next play the Ravens got a ridiculous interception and my breath stopped again. Lee Evans looked like he caught a touchdown pass; heart stops. Sterling Moore knocks it out; still can’t breathe. Cundiff goes up for the game-tying field goal and I begin rationalizing that “We still have overtime.”

Then the kick went wide left.

This was my reaction word for word; “YEEEEEEEEEEEEEES! YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEES! HE MISSED IT! HE F**KING MISSED IT! GO THE F**K BACK TO BALTIMORE! YEEEEEEEES!” Words can’t do justice to how loud and long I yelled. I was hoarse for the rest of the day.

I’m still not sure how they pulled it off but I’ll give it a shot.

Next stop: Indianapolis.

First off the Patriots overcame one of the worst performances I’ve seen Tom Brady put together. After putting up a historical performance the week before Brady just looked off. He floated a number of throws including a miss to a wide open Rob Gronkowski that would have been a touchdown in the first quarter. Brady also threw two picks and although one took an incredible play by Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith, neither were great plays. The pick by Smith was particularly bad as the Patriots could have put the game away on that drive.  In other offensive news the entire Patriots offensive attack was almost irrevocably altered when the formerly indestructible Gronkowski went down with a twisted ankle at the hands of none other than Bernard Pollard but Gronk came back and although he’s in a boot should be fine. (At least that’s what I’ll keep telling myself).

The defense was another story. Was it a shutdown defense that didn’t allow an inch? No but for the second straight week it go pressure on the quarterback, limited the Ravens to field goals and even with a four string wide receiver covering Anquan Boldin kept the Patriots in the game when the offense couldn’t. Vince Wilfork played one of the best games of the season and possibly his career. He didn’t let Ray Rice run it in the middle and he kept the middle of the pocket treacherous ground for Joe Flacco. Then there was Sterling Moore who made the two plays on defense that won the game. First he knocked what looked like was a sure touchdown out of Lee Evans hands. Then on the next play knocked the ball away from Dennis Pitta.

Now it might seem like the Patriots didn’t win this game outright with Cundiff missing a give-me field goal but the truth was that the Patriots and Ravens played a tight game that could have gone either way. It happened to go New England’s way and now somehow, some way the Patriots are headed to the Super Bowl. I guess I can wait until the middle of February to start breathing again. Hopefully my neighbors can survive, heck, hopefully I do.

-Phil

Stayed tuned over the next two weeks as we get ready for an all SeeYouInOctober Super Bowl. Follow us on Twitter (@seeuinoctober), on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/SeeYouInOctober) and Tumbler (http://seeyouinoctober.tumblr.com/) for all the insights and trash talk.

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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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