Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Let the countdown begin

By John Gottlieb
The Phanatic Magazine

“It's really early in the season. The reality is that it's a win on the road and we're 6-0… The season really doesn't start until after Thanksgiving anyway. We're trying to win as many games as we can, establish some depth and continue to get better each week.” - Tom Brady

I know we’re not even halfway through the NFL season, but I feel completely comfortable in writing the next sentence.

The Patriots are going to go 16-0 in the regular season this year.

This team makes it look too easy. They’ve only played two games with the cheater known as Rodney Harrison and are awaiting the return of All-Pro d-lineman Richard Seymour, who is eligible to return to practice this week after spending the first six weeks of the seasons on the PUP list.

The Cowboys, arguably the second best team in the NFL, kept it close until the Pats exerted their manpower over America’s Team in the second half, scoring in each of the final five possessions.

New England travels to Indy in just about two weeks for the only questionable game left on its schedule.

Yes, back-to-back games at Baltimore and in Foxborough for the Steelers in December look iffy, but are the Pats going to lose to a team scoring 18.3 points per game (good enough for 22nd in the league) or at home to the Steelers, who haven’t played anyone worth mentioning.

The Steelers won’t be a definite win but it begins a stretch of three straight home games to close out the season before taking on the Giants in East Rutherford to close the perfect regular season.
The Patriots have won four of the five meetings with Pittsburgh since Bill Belichick took over. Much like Indianapolis for a long time, the Pats have the Steelers’ number.

That leads me to the Super Bowl champions. The Patriots defense hasn’t gone up against an excellent offense like the Colts yet this season, but does it look like they have anything to be worried about?

Add in the fact that Belichick must still be steaming after blowing a 21-3 lead in last year’s AFC Championship Game. Also after losing the previous six meetings the Colts have won the last three contests.

It seems that Bill Polian’s complaining has shifted the tide and now with the new rule implementations the Pats can’t beat Indy.

This is the year the Belichick and Brady reclaim the rivalry and prove their superiority over everyone else in the league.

How do you choose which weapon to take away? If you double-team Randy Moss then you’re leaving man-to-man on Donte' Stallworth, Wes Welker, Benjamin Watson or Laurence Maroney.

If you put eight men in the box to stop Maroney or Sammy Morris then you’re asking the world’s greatest quarterback to pick apart you’re defense and find the open receiver. And trust me there is an open receiver somewhere.

The Steelers are ranked in the top five in most defensive categories and despite the loss of Booger MacFarland the Colts’ unit is much improved, but the Pats are near the top in defense as well.

Here are just a few of the statistical categories the Pats are currently leading: total offense (yards per game), passing yards per game, points per game, touchdowns, and third down efficiency on defense.

The defense is giving up 78 yards on the ground, 179 in the passing game and limiting their opponents to just over 15 points per game.

That’s domination in every sense of the word.

Throughout the first third of the football season nobody has come close to Patriots. They are beating teams by 23 points per game and have scored on 36 of their 62 total offensive possessions this season (and that’s not including the kickoff return against the Jets).

Each time that Brady gets his hands on the ball the chances are more than likely (58%) that he is going to put points on the board. New England is on pace to score an NFL-record 614 points. Who is going to stop this team?

Brady (21 touchdowns and a passer rating of 128.9), who set the record with at least three TD passes in each of the first six games of the season, is on his way to breaking Peyton Manning’s single season touchdown (49) and passer rating records (121.1) set in 2004.

Not only are the Pats playing the team game better than anyone else but with all of the added weapons in the offseason they are racking up individual achievements left and right.

The silliest thing with the Pats is that when someone gets hurt you wouldn’t even notice. In last week’s game Maroney sat out, and Watson and Morris both left the game and didn’t return, but who would’ve known?

“I think that's what you're looking for in a team and in players,” said Kevin Faulk. If one guy goes down, the guys backing up have to step it up. It's the way the team is set up and the level of attention that we put on it. We have to do things, not necessarily on the football field, to keep ourselves going (at a high level).”

I know it’s early but nobody is going to beat this team if the Colts can’t.

The ’72 Dolphins are going to have put that champagne on ice for a long time because they’re not breaking out the bubbly this year.

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