Tuesday, October 21, 2008

With Or Without You

Patriots 41 Broncos 7. It was not at all what I expected, except perhaps in the darkest recesses of my mind where that same score had the teams reversed. But Jay Cutler hurt his finger on the first play, the Patriots defense came out like they had something to prove, and the Patriots offensive line pushed around the Denver front 7 to the tune 257 yards rushing. And that was that and I'm not sure it means much of anything, other than that the Patriots are just as competitive as anyone else in the NFL in this impossible-to-figure-out season.

What's tough at this point is that we still don't know if we can really win with Matt Cassel. The losses have been brutal, the sorts of games that were probably losses with whoever was thrown out at quarterback. And the wins have been equally impressive the other way, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. Six games into the season we have yet to see Matt Cassel have to play in a close game, to have to protect the ball and get first downs with a slim lead or actually lead them from behind. I was heartened by Ron Jaworski's comments on Cassel during the broadcast last night, indicating that Cassel could be a decent NFL quarterback. It was also interesting to hear them note that the team was prepping Cassel for December and the post-season, not trying to simplify the offense in an attempt to win now. We'll see what happens, but I'm still not convinced that Matt Cassel can develop anything resembling the pocket presence of a professional quarterback. As I noted two weeks ago, his mistakes are literally worse than rookie mistakes, they're the mistakes of a guy who's never had to face 300 pound monsters in his face.

But we'll see. Ultimately, the fate of the Patriots this season rests of their defense because they simply won't be winning games when they give up 30 points. The defensive has looked alternately great and terrible so far, so, like the rest of the league, I just don't know what to think. However, my thoughts go back to 2005, where a struggling Patriots defense began the year by giving up 20 points or more in each of the team's first 6 games. That team limped to a 4-4 record, but finished the season 10-6 and opened the playoffs with an impressive 28-3 win over the Jaguars. The point is that most of us tend to forget the way defensives develop during the season. As the Giants showed last year, teams that do well tend to be the teams that are playing the best defense in December and January.

But at 4-2 for the Pats thus far, I'll hold to my prediction that they can win 10-12 games. Hold onto your hats though for week 17, when the Pats go to Buffalo, a game that very likely determine who wins the division.


Blogger McMc said...

The Pats can't win for real with Matt Cassel. Not happening. Listen, the Pats are good like UConn football is good...they'll beat some bad teams but against good teams they are in trouble. I know you'll say the Broncos are good but c'mon, they aren't really good. Any team that lets up 500 rush yards a game isn't good. Look at who the Pats have beaten this year: Broncos, Jets (mediocre), 49ers (borderline mediocre) and Chiefs (awful). The Pats have lost to the Chargers and the Dolphins...honestly the two best teams they've played (yea, I think Miami is better than Denver). Now let's look at the upcoming schedule:

St Louis - A game they can win but could be interesting considering the Rams just destroyed a great team using a back-up QB.

at Indy - Not winning this one. Don't care how Indy is looking, they'll win.

Buffalo - Might take it at home, but Buffalo seems pretty legit.

NY Jets - Should win.

at Miami - Doubt it.

Pittsburgh - Really shouldn't have a chance.

at Seattle - Unless they turn it around, should be a Pats win.

at Oakland - Win

Arizona - Interesting, but no gimme.

at Buffalo - No.

I'll be generous and say 5-5 the rest of the way out, which puts them at 9-7. They might win the win-loss battle, but chalk that up to parity more than anything else.

Also, I don't think Ron Jaworski has ever said anything bad about a QB.

1:19 PM  
Blogger lonely libertarian said...

You're probably right about Jaws, but I think you're ignoring my point about the Patriots defense. How they finish depends entirely on what defense shows up. The defense that showed up againast the Chargers and the Dolphins won't get them a single win. But if the defense plays well, they should be in most of these games.

Personally, I think Indy and Arizona are the most scary because of their passing attacks- there's no such thing as a comfortable lead and an early deficit would mean a quick game over.

Pittsburgh is rough because they could struggle to put any points on the board. Buffalo will be tough, but based on the football I've seen so far, I find it difficult to say Buffalo is so head and shoulders above the Pats that they should sweep the season series. The Dolphins beat the Patriots up last time, but they'll certainly be up for the rematch and certainly be more prepared for the Wildcat formation and the Dolphins rushing attack.

We'll see though. It's a long season and like I've been saying, we don't know much at this point.

3:13 PM  
Blogger McMc said...

I've been saying the same thing about the Pats from the beginning of the Cassel era....their defense can be good but it's all dependent on the offense doing their job. Honestly, did the defense "show up" against Denver? I don't think so. Jay Cutler got hurt on the first play (late hit by the way) and wasn't the same. The Broncos ran the ball VERY effectively those first few drives too, but fumbles ruined both. I'd be careful praising a D that got ran on so easily and could've been destroyed if Cutler could throw with any zip.

3:27 PM  

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