It's a big four-game stretch for New England.
2009 NFL Mid-Season Report
The season is half-way over and the New England Patriots stand 6-2.
It's been a fairly turbulent ride - the opening night nail-biter, the
Jets upset, two big wins against the black birds, a heart-breaking OT
loss to Josh McDaniels' Broncos, two thrashing - one in October snow,
the other in London, and finally a battle against the wildcat for AFC
East supremacy. For somebody who envisioned smooth sailing early on,
much like 2007, the first half of this season has been quite the
surprise. I never thought the Patriots offense would struggle the way
it did early on. I also never saw the defense being as dominant as it
has been. Joey Galloway getting cut? No way! Brandon McGowan
becoming a defensive star? Never! Yet even though things haven't gone
quite as planned, one thing remains the same nine weeks later - I
believe the New England Patriots are a Super Bowl team.
You won't find many who agree with me. Sure, some people may throw
the Patriots' name in the hat when they talk about the title
contenders, but following that Week 2 loss to New York, I've never
heard anyone mention the idea with any conviction. In the NFC you hear
New Orleans and Minnesota, and rightfully so. But in the AFC, it seems
that everyone is ready to crown the Colts and Steelers. They seem to
forget that #1 - Indy has yet to face a Top 12 opponent this season,
that their secondary has been completely ravaged by injury, and that
they can't run the ball to save their lives. Does that sound like a
recipe for success? The Steelers, on the other hand, are the
defending champions and certainly look much improved from their shaky
start. Still, if Brett Favre doesn't throw two fourth-quarter picks
deep in Pittsburgh territory that get returned for touchdowns, the
Steelers are a disapointing 5-3, and we're not having this
conversation. Let's also not forget that the Bengals are also 6-2 up
North and actually beat Pittsburgh earlier this year. So when a team
may not even have its division wrapped up, crowning them champs is a
Look, I'm not saying that the Patriots have been perfect. They
flat-out stunk it up against Buffalo in Week 1. They couldn't keep
their lead and got shut out in the second half of both the Jets and
Broncos games. However, they looked mighty good against Atlanta and
Baltimore - two playoff-caliber teams. They spanked the Titans 59-0,
and then tore it up 35-7 against Tampa. Are those two bad teams?
Certainly. But the Patriots clobbered them the way an elite team
should. Then, against Miami, a team that generally gives New England
fits, the Patriots were able to handle the kitchen sink of formations
that the Fins threw at them, to put the division well within their
grasp. The bottom line is that the Pats stumbled at the start, but
have regained their footing. The offense may not be what it was in
2007, but I'll tell you that the defense certainly has improved upon
the version two years ago. And remember what they say - defense wins
It's become a running theme of mine to talk about how the Patriots
don't get any respect, how they're constantly undervalued, overlooked,
and underappreciated. It's also another routine of mine to balance out
the talk of how the public's opinion doesn't matter, it's what you do
on the field that counts. Well, now's the time for the Patriots to do
something that counts. The Colts on Sunday night, the revenge game vs.
the Jets, Monday Night Football in New Orleans, and then a trip down to
Miami where they can officially capture the division crown. If the
Patriots win those four games, believe me, everyone will take notice.
Those are the types of games that the 2003 and 2004 Patriots would have
won. Those are also the types of critical games that this team lost
last year and in 2002 when they failed to make the playoffs. If the
Patriots are the pretenders that everyone seems to think they are,
they're find a dumb way to lose to Indy or New Orleans, and they'll
allow the Jets and the Dolphins to stay alive. But if they can run
that table, not only does it lock the division, it also locks in a bye
week, and it probably gets New England the #1 seed in the conference.
These next four weeks are where the rhetoric meets reality.
History doesn't always have to repeat itself, but the past decade shows
that when New England goes on tears like that, they tear their way to
the Super Bowl. When they slip up, the post-season generally doesn't
end so nicely. Can the Patriots step up when it matters most? Can they
down two vengeful, familiar opponents? Can they take down not one, but
two undefeated teams? It's time for me to stop saying the Patriots are
great. It's time for them to prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt.
Now, is when it counts.
With the way the rest of the division is crumbled, the Vikes are playoff bound with or without a healthy Favre.
The Saints are looking like the class of the NFL, but two close calls
the past two weeks have got me thinking they've peaked too early.
Could it be? The Cowboys are the least dysfunctional team in the division? The NFC East needs therapy.
Look who's recovered from their Super Bowl hangover!
Niners? Giants? Bears? None of them look like they'll usurp the
Eagles, but then again, Philly did lose to Oakalnd Anything's possible.
When it comes down to it, I may want to, but there's no way I can pick
Cincy over Pittsburgh in good conscience. Hopefully they prove me
wrong. Baltimore's a good team with a brutal, brutal schedule.
I think it's safe to pencil in the Colts as AFC South champions.
The Patriots have done what they need to do to keep themselves atop the
division. Now they just to step on the necks of their rivals and end
I see San Diego lurking, just waiting to snatch the division again.
I don't see Baltimore making up two games on Denver with the schedule
they have. Then agian, if Cincy implodes, and that's not a stretch
considering it's Cincy, the Ravens could sneak in.
Cowboys over Eagles, Falcons over Cardinals
Vikings over Falcons, Cowboys over Saints
Vikings over Cowboys
Steelers over Broncos, Chargers over Bengals
Patriots over Chargers, Steelers over Colts
Patriots over Steelers
Patriots over Vikings