Once again, everyone doubts the Pats.
2009 NFL Quarterly Report
It's one of a few select words that has come to
define the past decade for the New England Patriots. Early on, the
disrespect appeared in the form of everyone calling the Patriots' first
Super Bowl victory a fluke. It then evolved into a nation-wide
pandemic of everyone predicting them to fail in big games. Later, it
would would make itself known in the lauding of Peyton Manning's stats
over Tom Brady's results. Finally, when all the doubters and naysayers
had been sufficiently proven wrong, it turned into pure, ugly hatred.
Overblown accusations, unfair judgments, and outright lies soiled what
could have been the most special season in franchise history. No matter
how much they earned it, by working hard, playing the right way, and by
always finding a way to pull out a victory, the world refused to give
the Patriots respect.
I get that success breeds hatred. The moment you stand up above
the crowd is the moment that everyone tries to bring you down. But
unlike the mercenary Yankees or the Lakers and their "me-first"
superstar, I honestly have a hard time understanding everyone's beef
with the New England Patriots. Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying
that you have to like them, but you should respect them. They embody
everything that a football franchise should be. To all the
Brady-haters out there, I ask you this: What has Tom Brady done other
than be the consummate teammate, an incredibly hard worker, and
extremely respectful? What's Bill Belichick's fatal flaw? That he
happens to be, perhaps, the greatest football mind of his generation?
That he's quick to compliment his adversaries and never says a negative
word about them? That he somehow manages to get the most out of his
players by having them put the interest of the team above their own?
Those are clearly reasons to detest the man.
Yes, the disrespect runs deep. It's threads are woven all
throughout the fabric of the past eight seasons. Each year it changes
its colors and takes on new form, but the underlying sentiment
remains. This season is, perhaps, its most subtle incarnation.
Everyone has learned their lesson: "You don't pick against the Pats."
Fresh off a loss to the Jets two weeks ago in which the Patriots'
offense was clearly in disarray, nearly everyone picked the Patriots to
bounce back against a formidable Falcons team. The next week, when the
Ravens rolled into Foxboro, it was the same story even though the
Ravens were the consensus #1 team in the league. You may be asking
yourself, "where's the disrespect in that?". However, hidden behind
the obligatory "pick" is the post-game commentary that completely
undermines New England's accomplishments.
There were several moments in the second half of the Ravens game
where Baltimore was dangerously close to being blown out. The Patriots
controlled the ebb and flow of the game for nearly the entire 60
minutes. A Baltimore offense that had previously dominated every
opponent was rendered inert, and the Patriots' finally executed well in
the red zone. Yet after the dust had settled, it seemed that all
anyone could talk about was how an easy dropped pass and weak roughing
the passer penalties did the Ravens in. Of course no one seemed to care
that both of those calls were correct and validated by the league's
front office, or that the Patriots were slapped 15 yards as well for a
similar "weak" violation later in the game. Everyone also seemed to
ignore the fact that Mark Clayton probably dropped that 4th down pass
because he was anticipating the two Patriots defenders who were about
to level him. There also seems to be wide-spread amnesia regarding the
fact that on the Raven's prior drive, the Patriots were twice able to
keep Baltimore from gaining a yard when they had a 3rd and 1. Bottom
line, there were no bogus calls that cost Baltimore the game, and New
England's defense managed to keep the Ravens from scoring on two
late-game drives, even though they were playing four-down football.
Yet you'd never know any of that from reading the national headlines.
You'll also scarcely find anyone who will show the Patriots some
respect in the weekly rankings or playoff prognostications. Even
though the masses intelligently back them from week to week, they
somehow manage to completely disregard them in the overall picture of
the league. Following their upset defeat over New England, the Jets
were foolishly elevated to title contenders. Granted, New York is
clearly better than almost anyone expected, but Mark Sanchez will be
fortunate to lead the Jets to the playoffs, let alone the Super Bowl.
I've yet to hear anyone talk about the Patriots chances to play in
February since the season began. Even after last weeks embarrassing
loss to the Saints, the same week where the Patriots downed the "#1
team in the league", the Jets continued to remain above New England in
a fair number of power rankings. The Giants, Colts, and Vikings are
almost universally considered to be superior to New England, despite
the fact that their 4-0 records were built at the expense of the
league's basement dwellers. Don't believe me? Take a look at the
combined record of the opponents for the leagues "top" teams through
the first four weeks:
New York Giants: 4-12
Baltimore Ravens: 5-11
Indianapolis Colts: 5-10
Minnesota Vikings: 6-10
Denver Broncos: 6-10
New Orleans Saints: 7-9
New York Jets: 9-7
New England Patriots: 9-6
give credit to the Jets, they're the lone team in the bunch who have
had a slate on par with New England's. However, while the Jets were
feasting on the 0-4 Titanics, The Pats have been pitted against an
undefeated team every single week. The upcoming matchup with Denver
will push that streak to five in a row, and just for fun, let's take
another look at the combined record of opponents if we include the Week
New York Giants: 5-15
Indianapolis Colts: 5-14
Minnesota Vikings: 6-14
Baltimore Ravens: 8-12
Denver Broncos: 9-11
New Orleans Saints: 7-9
New York Jets: 10-10
New England Patriots: 13-6
Kyle Orton manages to carve up the Patriots' surging defense, then more
power to him, and I'll put these complaints to rest. But if New
England walks out of Mile High 4-1, as I believe they will, there
should be no question who rests atop the NFL's ladder. The Patriots
will have beaten three out of those seven other teams on the list. As
for the rest of the crew, two of them will have beaten one other team
on the list, and five will have beaten none. Yet I can nearly guarantee
you that, assuming nobody trips on their doormat, the Giants, Vikings,
Saints, Colts, and, possibly, the Jets will continue to reign over New
England in the opinion of the masses.
As much as the disrespect puts a fire in my belly, the beauty of it
all, is that none of it matters. They don't hand out medals for the
Week 5 Power Rankings, and who people predict to win the Super Bowl has
absolutely nothing to do with who wins it. While the Patriots
certainly don't concern themselves with the public's perception of
them, they do take notice. They remember every barb, every oversight,
every snub. They take those things and use them to bring them closer
together as a team, to make their focus clearer, and to motivate
themselves just that little bit more. The doubt, the disrespect is the
high octane fuel that makes the Patriots run.
For the past two seasons it's been a circus in New England.
Between spygate, the undefeated streak, Brady's injury, and Matt
Cassell's uprising the media has been all over the Pats. Although
unintentional, New England's less-than-stellar start has actually been
a blessing in disguise, as everyone seems to have gotten bored with
them and left to laud Brett Favre and over-hype Mark Sanchez. All the
while, the Patriots have made their way back to playing their patented
style of football. They're running the ball better, coming up with
huge plays on defense, controlling the clock, and quietly knocking off
quality team after quality team. It's the exact same formula the team
followed to their first three Super Bowl titles, and it's playing out
once again. Mark my words, come Week 14, when the Patriots are sitting
in position for a first round bye, everyone will stare at the standings
and wonder how it happened. Then they'll discount the Pats, jump on
the Peyton Manning bandwagon, and watch it get smashed by Jerod Mayo,
Vince Wilfork, Gary Guyton, Adalius Thomas, and Brandon Merriweather.
Rinse and repeat the disrespect all the way to Miami, where the
Patriots finally prove there was never anything to doubt at all. Yep,
it's just like old times in Foxboro...
You've seen the cakewalk schedule that Minnesota's had so far.
Basically this comes down to my belief that Jay Cutler will hold up a
lot better than Favre down the stretch.
What did I tell you? The Panthers screw me over every year. No matter
what I pick them to do, they'll do the opposite. The Saints are
shaping up to be the cream of the NFC's crop, and maybe even the league.
Easy schedule or not, the Giants are a formidable opponent. If
they can just stay healhty the NFC East is theirs for the taking.
Can we just contract this division and promote USC, Florida, LSU, and Tennessee to the NFL?
The Eagles were on the buble here. Unfortunately, their division
doesn't have the "gimme" games that the Lions, Panthers, and
Buccanneers provide the other two Wild Card teams.
After their battle with the Patriots, it's clear the Ravens are a
formidable team. I have a good feeling they'll take what just may be
the best division in football right now.
Barring an injury to Peyton Manning, there's no way the Colts aren't high atop the division at season's end.
The Jets will certainly give the Patriots a run, but in the end,
there's no question that New England's the more complete football team.
The Broncos have a brutal schedule ahead, but are probably better than
everyone thought. San Diego could certainly catch them, but they
aren't looking too hot as well.
I wouldn't completely sleep on Houston as the AFC South is pretty
weak, but I gotta think the Steelers will rebound and start playing
some solid football.
Vikings over Falcons, Bears over 49ers
Giants over Bears, Saints over Vikings
Saints over Giants
Ravens over Steelers, Jets over Broncos
Patriots over Jets, Ravens over Colts
Patriots over Ravens
Patriots over Saints