At the risk of being run out of town or hunted down by our very own SRD (he knows where I live :-(), I'll go out on a limb and say I'm already getting tired of the Patriots lovefest...and it's only May!!! "The Patriots are poised to win another Super Bowl in 2009!!" or "Bill Belichick is a god in the draft room. How can anyone compete?" Don't get me wrong, I'm one of the biggest New England Patriots homers on the planet. Before a game, I put all of my championship jerseys on the floor, roll on them, screaming like a little schoolgirl, and then pick the one that I finally land on...ahem. Ok, T.M.I. Moving on...
I respect Peter King from SI.com a great deal. He's a real football dude and a very good writer, but this week's Monday Morning QB power ranks the Patriots at numero uno:
New England should have enough ammo to be competitive with the best quarterbacks on the schedule. It was 5-1 down the stretch, including 4-0 on the road, as many of its young defenders grew up. I don't see much downside.
All very true, I agree. They pulled off an amazing season with a backup quarterback who is now starting in KC. However, not to take anything away from Cassel nor the Patriots, but that wasn't the hardest schedule on the docket. The other bit that's got me all lathered up is the oddsmakers. As of January 22nd, the Patriots were favored 7-1 to win Super Bowl XLIV. Guys, it's a little early.
Before I sound like a negative nelly (or Boston Globe sportswriter Dan Shaughnessy), I think they have a pretty good chance, too. However, my reasoning may be different than others.
- Brady's back - Well, not so different than others. When Brady went down against the Chiefs, the heartless were cheering, but the pragmatists were saying, "Too bad, but maybe we have a chance." The playoff landscape may have been VASTLY different had Tommy Terrific been holding the reins. The 'Fins had a breakout year and huge props to them after a tough 1-15 2007, but I think Brady would picked up 1 or 2 more wins in 2008, just enough to take the East. Right now, I think teams are changing their underwear knowing Brady's back; you don't have to be a homer to know he's that much of a difference maker.
- Contract year - 11 of 14 offensive linemen's contracts are up in 2009. Did I mention Vince Wilfork, too? So, Hoodie drafts three defensive linemen and a couple of young OL's to spice things up a bit. He creates competition and KNOWS these guys will be playing their hearts out for a payday either with the Patriots or for a prospective team.
- Old vs. New - Belichick is a master at mixing free agents and young guys. In 2008, however, a series of injuries (Brady, Harrison, Jordan, Maroney, Tank) and questionable FA choices (Deltha O'Neal, released John Lynch) seemed to hamper their potential. This year, Hoodie has hit the nail on the head. Bodden and Springs will be HUGE at corner while Tank is back at safety. Have I mentioned Greg Lewis and Joey Galloway at WR? Let's not forget Fast Freddy Taylor at RB.
- Health - Hooray, the Patriots have been one of the most successful teams in the last decade!! Oh no, they've been one of the most successful teams of the last decade. Winning in the playoffs and playing in Super Bowls is great, but it means the rest between one season and the next is very short. Due to their success, the Patriots have had the least amount of rest of most any team. Until this season. Not making the playoffs last year meant their season was over on 12/28/08. That means time to recuperate. That means healthy linemen in front of Tommy. That means a strong and fired up Laurence Maroney with a chip on his shoulder. Health, for lack of a better word, is good.
The lovefest has gotten sickeningly sweet for my tastes, but I'm no less of a homer. It's my opinion New England has a major "Oh Yeah?!?!" season coming. They'll play like there's a massive chip on their shoulder. Whether it's for a mega contract or a permanent roster spot, Belichick has structured the team so players will eat gravel for him. I just wish the media would stop these silly, early predictions about greatness and winning.
Save it for next February.