Well in a bye week the Pats did quite well. We watched Cinncy drop back a bit from first round bye. Colts were thoroughly beat down. Some teams in the NFC power ranked higher or at Pats level dropped down San Fran showed weakness and more importantly I would rather play Carolina after a win than a loss. Green Bay is lost without Rogers. The only game of importance that I would have liked to go the other way was Denver San Diego, but that is asking too much and quite honestly Denver and KC one will be knocked out of 1st round bye by the other.
This makes the next two games quite important. If we beat Carolina, and take care of business against Denver, most Pats fans think that Denver will take care of business against KC. It is better than even odds that Pats get number one seed. Win these two and don't lay an egg and everyone will be coming to Foxboro. Not a given, but a likely out come if we win next 2. Even if KC splits with Denver and takes Number one seed they are more likely to lose than Denver before AFC championship game.
Now Carolina just beat San Fran. Mostly a defensive effort and predicated upon stopping the run, and while the Panthers rank in top 3 or 4 in defensive statistics their defensive line is not ranked that high in pass rushing more of a run stopping team. I think this plays into our strength. When Brady has been harried Cinccy Jets it hurts are pass offense. Clearly i would like to run, but with Vareen back and all weapons healthy a short passing attack with Ammendola or Vareen can be just as effective as running. I think we ill be able to put up points against Caronlina and may need to if D still missing Talib or Nink. Carolina on offense is pretty well rounded. Cam Newton is obviously a threat to run and they spread the ball around pretty evenly to receivers, so bit trick as to who or what you try to take away (I leave that to BB). Surprisingly with Cam newtons mobility they do give up a lot of sacks. The way i would describe the Panthers is a well rounded team, but other than stopping the run I would consider them dominant in any one aspect above average and as a whole they are efficient (+8 in turnovers). I think this game is winnable as Brady will have all his toys. I also think if our D is still missing more than Mayo and Wilfork, Gregory then they will score as well and will be a shoot out. If we have the rest of our D back Nink, Talib (the 10 injured players i am forgetting) then we should win a bit more convincingly.
Then comes Denver. This will be the game of the year if both Denver and Pats take care of business. It is likely that Denver will have beaten KC (Denver at home which is big) and could be the number one team in the NFL. The good news is we are at home and our offense will hopefully be at full strength. I am not going to bother making predictions on this one as who knows who will be healthy on both sides. Weather could be a factor and i think we are better at running the ball than Denver. This works to our advantage at keeping Manning off the field and not having a running team go against what is clearly our weakness with injuries. Until we see what the situation is two weeks from now it's anybody's game. This game will likely decide the number 1 seed and after the next two games we will know a lot more abut the Pats. Are they a contender or just too beat up to go the distance? Win one and its a push. Win two and we are in the drivers seat. I am not going to think about losing both (I am a Pats Fan) though I have seen some analysts go there.