It's that time of year again. For 12 NFL teams, the season continues or maybe it's more accurately stated that the post season is just beginning. That's right, everyone's 0-0. Regular season juggernauts Indy and New Orleans are on the same level playing field as the rest of us... sort of. Except for a first round bye and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs...alright, you get the picture. The stakes are high with 1 L sending a team packing.
This is going to be a great game to watch. The Patriots 2nd ranked offense goes toe-to-toe with the Ravens 5th ranked defense. On the other side of the ball, our 13th ranked defense squares off with Baltimore's 10th ranked offense. I would say the teams are closely matched, but I do feel like the Patriots have the edge. More after the jump...
As Belichick says, "Statistics are for losers." I'm not sure I totally agree with him, but I know what he's saying. Stats can tell a story, but they can't tell the whole story or account for a player who's having a great game or predict the effects of a cold, New England day on the passing game. Sure, we can look back over history and mine the data, but for THIS game, THIS matchup, we can't use those numbers to predict the outcome.
The loss of Wes Welker could very likely spell doom for our favorite team; the little engine that could plays that important a role in our offense. But one thing I keep thinking about is the Tom Brady of the first half of the year and the same QB in the second half. Coming back from a devastating knee injury, Brady struggled to shake the rust and develop that timing with his receivers that is so important. Misroutes, miscues, and bad throws plagued this offense. A few gaffs named Joey Galloway and Greg Lewis and things looked bad. Fast forward to the second half of the season. The team went 5-4 instead of the first half's 5-2, but discounting the half hearted attempt against the Texans and the blowout by a red hot New Orleans and you have 2 games that were lost by 1 point (Colts and Dolphins).
I keep thinking about how Brady is playing now vs. how he played then and I feel like he's catching his rhythm. He's leading the team the way I remember in the "early days" and working with what he has. In those days, there were no superstar receivers nor crazy talented running backs. Today, our offense has Randy Moss as a superstar receiver but that's about it. Despite the lack of serious offensive talent, I think they've stepped into a rhythm, with both the players and the play calling. As atrocious as we thought it was in the beginning of the season, I believe the offense has gotten better and smarter towards the end of the season.
I hate to use the term "peaking at the right time", but I believe that's the case. I don't know what it is - homerism, fandom, still recovering from too much Christmas cheer - but I get the feeling this team has some of that early decade swagger about them, that "we have something to play for" attitude. And no one is going to hand it to us; we have to earn it. They're entitled to nothing.
That's why I think they can win this.