Thursday Morning 3rd and Long

My arms, and specifically shoulders, are really inflexible. However, that won't prohibit me from doing a tremendous amount of self-patting on the back this week. Why, you ask?

A few excerpts from a previous Thursday Morning 3rd and Long:

"If a player is being asked to play one position primarily (i.e. 3-4 DL or NT), switching from this position to a sub package might make them less effective in the transition."

"All of the reaction vs. attacking prose generated for the defensive philosophy shift was clearly done in my opinion to alter the effectiveness of the Patriot's nickel packages. There are a few variations of the nickle- 3-3-5, 4-2-5, and so on- but it seems to me that the package New England is building is specifically for the 4-2-5, and here's why: the philosophy of the NFL is changing. The dynamic of a 3 receiver set with a running back and a tight end, 5 wide sets, or 4 wide with a back is something that the Patriots are going to see more, and more, and more, and more because of New England's ability to put points on the board so early in games"

A few quotes from Bill Belichick on Sirius Radio's "Movin' The Chains," transcribed by Mike Reiss:

"Given the lack of spring opportunities to practice and meet, and the shortened training camp in terms of actual number of practices -- that from a teaching standpoint we felt like there would be more carryover teaching our base defense and nickel defense really as one front"

"We wanted a lot of carryover between our run responsibilities and run fits, and some of our pressure defenses and things like that. We'll transition and build into some of our odds fronts, but we felt like in trying to evaluate young players, asking them to learn one system in a 3-4 and then learn another system in nickel [was too much]. As you know, we were in nickel defense just as much as we were 3-4 defense because of teams using multiple receivers on early downs and two-minute and all those kind of things."

(effusively patting myself on the back at this point)

Okay, so maybe it's not such a big deal. But this is my first year writing about the Patriots, and it feels good to have gotten something right. Give me a moment to bask.

Anyways, this weekend was fantastic. The Patriots looked just human enough that we could evaluate them in a situation where things weren't going right, in a big game. My key example of this- obviously, Aaron Hernandez's blown touchdown at the end of the second quarter. Aaron looked clumsy all game, and as I'm his owner (in fantasy, at least) and I'm also a huge fan, I could not have more upset that A. He blew the chance to go up by 10 points at the half and B. he gave Antonio Cromartie, the shining example of everything I detest about the New York Jets, the chance to intercept a Tom Brady pass. That gets a big "C'mon, MAN!"

What could make me a little happier about Hernandez? Well, he was back on the field, which is always a plus for our offense. Also, I read a little nugget this week that reminded me that the Patriots essentially got Taylor Price, Aaron Hernandez, and Devin McCourty in lieu of Dez Bryant. Bryant is a superstar receiver, don't get me wrong- but McCourty, despite his struggles, is a cornerstone of our future defensive backfield; AHern is one half of the tight end revelation that originated in New England; and Taylor Price, well... he looked good in preseason? I'd like to have more to say, but Price can't get on the field yet.

WES WELKER. WES WELKER. WES WELKER. WES WELKER. WES WELKER. WES WELKER. WES WELKER. WES WELKER. WES WELKER. WES WELKER. WES WELKER. WES WELKER. WES WELKER. WES WELKER. WES WELKER. WES WELKER. WES WELKER. WES WELKER. WES WELKER. WES WELKER. WES WELKER. WES WELKER. WES WELKER. WES WELKER. WES WELKER. WES WELKER. WES WELKER. WES WELKER. WES WELKER. WES WELKER.

Okay, so I got that out of the way. Is Wes serious this season? Did he become a super hero at some point in the offseason and somehow not even Mike Reiss caught it?

Wes has about 100 yards to go to equal his entire total for receiving yards from 2010, and already has over half the receptions he caught coming off of knee surgery. I think everyone reading this can see the difference on the field- it's not like other teams forget who Wes is, but somehow he's managed to set a course for the all time record in receiving yards. I just can't believe his downfield presence this season. It's clear that Tom Brady can't either, because if their longball chemistry was just a little bit better Wes may have close to 1000 yards already this season.

I'd be more upset about Chad Ochocinco's lack of production if Welker didn't average 166 yards over the last three weeks.

Did everyone remember my James Ihedigbo prediction from last week? I'm like the anti- Matthew Berry. He played 51 of 54 defensive snaps against his former team, and in my humble opinion was a really effective weapon alongside Chung. Neither has a defined role as a strong or free safety, and it appears that they have the same strengths and weaknesses- strengths being their physical presence against the run and in coverage; weakness being strictly coverage. Each passing touchdown this week fell on the safeties, respectively. However, pass coverage in the secondary is a lot of communication, and considering this was their first start together I'm willing to give them both a break. Time will tell if Bill Belichick decided to start James simply because of his former affiliation, because he earned it, or a combination of both. Nick Caserio praised Ihedigbo's hard work since he's come to New England, and I think that bodes well for James' future. I think he's a shining example of someone that's willing to earn their stripes in special teams and hope that a team will give them snaps in their natural role. The Patriots have a weakness in the safety department, and Ihedigbo is filling it.

I'm as happy as everyone else about our defense's ability to force 3-and-outs last week, but the Jets were inept, and their offensive coordinator is distrusted by just about every offensive weapon on their team. Let's not hang our hats yet. Still though, the defense was able to contain Mark Sanchez and the Jets offense relatively well, and get the W without recording a turnover. For a team that has thrived on the opposition being careless with the ball, getting a win in a typical fashion was a nice difference.

BENJARVUS GREEN-ELLIS. PLEASE DON'T HAVE TURF TOE.

I don't think anything could be more devastating than Benny being injured. He's far and above my favorite Patriot (well, maybe tied with Pat Chung), and a crucial part of New England's offensive success. If the Patriots are able to sustain massive time-killing drives in the fourth quarter, the potential to avoid massive amounts of passing yardage being mounted against their contain defense is greatly increased.

STEVAN RIDLEY. PLEASE STOP DANCING AND BREAK OUT FOR MASSIVE CHUNKS OF YARDAGE.

Pretty please? My fantasy team, though 4-1, is constantly on the brink because of a few things:
1. Drafted Jamaal Charles with my first round selection.
2. Stupidly bought into the Tim Hightower hype- even though he's been somewhat productive, Washington is going to play the hot hand every week.
3. Drafted Reggie Bush IDIOTICALLY, even though I know he'll never be a productive back.
4. Have to hope that Cedric Benson won't be suspended, because he's the only semblance of a great running back I have.
So here I am, unbelievably excited because I'm able to get Ridley on the waiver wire. I was going to pick him up the week of his blowing up for 97 and a touchdown, but didn't. I put in the claim for Stevan and was shocked that he arrived on my bench. Had to start him last week. DUMB.

Essentially I have to hope that I can ride out Matt Stafford, Mike Wallace, and Calvin Johnson into the playoffs. Not that anyone cares- believe me, I know nothing is more annoying than hearing someone talk about their fantasy team- but I started writing about it, and I'm not deleting it. Learn to scan, I guess.
On to the Cowboys.

Dallas under Tony Romo has always been an under-achieving anomaly, and this year seems to be no different. Tony either blows the game for the Cowboys, or wins it. He does not have the ability to not influence the outcome directly in either manner- he'll either be great or a goat.

Frankly, I'm very worried about this week. Dallas has exactly the assets on paper that are usual foils to the Patriots' success: a high flying offense complete with a great and balanced passing attack, and a defense that has a tremendous pass rush and above average ability to stop the run.

The Cowboys have already racked up 13 sacks this year, with 5 going to the manchild in Demarcus Ware. Containing Ware will be the ultimate priority for the Patriots' offensive line. I suspect that New England will try to challenge Dallas's rushing defense, but the Cowboys have only allowed an average of 62 rushing yards per game this season.

Because of these statistics, I think that New England will utilize the hurry-up offense that worked so successfully the season to attempt to tire out the Dallas defense. By now, I'm sure that everyone reading this is aware that Rob Ryan is the defensive coordinator for Dallas- the same Ryan that was the last man to successfully design a defensive scheme to keep New England's offense under 30 points in a regular season game.

Rob often employed a Joker defense, in which the defensive players are all moving parts until the ball is snapped. The remedy to this would be using BJGE to run the ball down Dallas' throat, if he's healthy.
In general, I think that keeping Tom Brady upright is the ultimate priority for this weekend. For that reason, I suspect that he'll run a lot of plays out of a shotgun set, to diminish the opportunity that DeMarcus Ware has to blindside Brady.

Sunday will be a true test to determine if the 166 passing yards allowed to Mark Sanchez were just a fluke. The Patriots often used defensive back blitzes against the Jets- Ihedigbo rushing and Kyle Arrington's blown sack are examples- and I really hope to see more of that against Dallas.

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