Today while the media was either tracking Brett Favre or passing out A's all around to the Jets for their 31-16 loss to the Giants, the Patriots were practicing against Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons. This one isn't receiving the same fanfare that the two days of practice with the world champion Saints got, but this is another two days of practice and a game against a solid team that runs different schemes and plays, like one that left Jerod Mayo asking:
While almost everyone seems to agree there should be fewer preseason games, the Patriots have gone in another direction and are actually increasing the amount of competition their team faces before the games start to really count.
My attempted insight after the jump...
We all knew based on the Patriots list of opponents that 2010 was going to be a difficult season against numerous playoff teams. When the final schedule came down it left the Pats with three of their first four games within the AFC East, and as we all know, the road to the playoffs goes through the division.
The 2010 Patriots are a team that will live or die by their first and second year players, and these players need to ready to go the very first game of the season. This is why the Patriots have gone about gaining as much experience for their youngsters as they can. Or as Vince Wilfork put it:
By the time Brandon Spikes, Devin McCourty, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Zoltan Mesko, and hopefully Jermaine Cunningham surely step onto the field against the Bengals they will be far more battle tested than the rookies across from them. By Wilfork's numbers they will have played 10-12 games.
Short trips like these can also help bring a team together, and we all know this was a team that lacked chemistry in 2009. Add in some foreign conditions like the Hotlanta humidity and the Patriots will be even better prepared to deal with adverse conditions on foreign fields.
Barring injuries this seems like an excellent strategic coaching move by Belichick, acquiring experience for his team as quickly as he can.
The strategy will need to pay off as a legit Bengals team comes to Foxboro for the opener. Followed by a trip through the AFC East that needs to result in no worse than 2-1 in division.