It seems trivial to discuss anything not pertaining to the happenings in Boston going on right now. What initially started out as something seemingly tragic enough has somehow found a way to compound even further, claiming another innocent life and locking down an entire bustling city on high alert. If there's one thing I've personally learned in being reared by the Commonwealth is that we're deservedly synonymous with our myriad sports teams. It's a religion that you follow and a creed you passionately observe. It would take a great effort to separate New Englanders from their beloved teams, and a despicable act of cowardice just won't do it.
It is in this spirit that I proudly continue offseason coverage on Pats Pulpit.
My thoughts go out to everyone caught up in this nightmare and I urge everyone to continue being safe.
"The Road Not Taken"
When comparing the New England Patriots' workload to that of 2012, one thing that immediately stands out is the lack of a "difficult" road trip. Of course, there is no "easy" road game within the parity-pumping parameters of the NFL, but a trek to notoriously difficult Seattle exactly three time zones away certainly produced some unwanted results and added pressure. While the team righted the ship very soon after, the Patriots were forced to take another difficult road all the way to London, England for a date with St. Louis two weeks later.
The Patriots went on to rout the Rams to the tune of a 45-7 final score, but players constantly talk of the comfort and familiarity that comes with staying close to home. In 2013, the Patriots longest road trip by distance is an early December visit to the Houston Texans. The rest are comparatively a stone's throw away from Foxborough: at Atlanta, Cincinnati, Carolina and Baltimore.
The scheduling powers-that-be certainly handed the Patriots some favorable road games this year; unless, of course, Bill Belichick is left sneering at a drop-off in production from his his frequent flyer miles.
"Compiling a Résumé"
A beaten-to-death talking point you'll likely hear throughout the regular season is how contending team "X" hasn't played a playoff team, so how will they possibly survive the grueling postseason in a field full of them?
This stigma has been attached to the Patriots just about every other season, but this year aims to be different.
You have to tread lightly when penciling teams in that qualify for the playoffs from one year to the next because there is some turnover involved. When you take a closer look at the teams, however, it's safe to say the Patriots will match up more than one Super Bowl hopeful.
The Cincinnati Bengals, Houston Texans, Denver Broncos and Baltimore Ravens all qualified for the postseason, with the Ravens going on to secure a Super Bowl win. In the NFC, the Atlanta Falcons were awarded a number one seed that ended up dropping an incredibly close NFC Championship Game to the 49ers. Four of those five the Patriots will see on the road. The Patriots will host the Pittsburgh Steelers and New Orleans Saints and, while not qualifying for the playoffs last year, are perennial contenders that could quickly rise in the rankings with solidified coaching staffs and strong play at the quarterback position.
The Patriots will find themselves in excellent position to achieve a top seed at the end of the year if they find success against some tough conference competition.
"The Bye Week"
The Patriots have been beneficiaries of some favorable bye weeks in recent years; that is, having it fall as close to the middle of the season as possible. This season will be no different, with a week 10 bye slated just the week after the Patriots log nine games.
Bill Belichick has made his thoughts known on the importance of a midseason bye as it gives coaches an excellent opportunity to analyze what has gone well and what might need improvement--all with an excellent sample size. The Patriots will have an excellent opportunity to rest aching, tired bodies and gameplan just before a Monday Night Football meet with the Carolina Panthers.
The Patriots should possess a working knowledge of their AFC East positioning by this point with only two divisional games left to play by the time the bye week arrives (@ Miami and vs. Buffalo). The New York Jets share a week 10 bye with the Patriots, while the Buffalo Bills take off week 12 and the Miami Dolphins skip week 6.
|@ Buffalo||Sun 09/08||1:00 PM EDT|
|New York Jets||Thu 09/12||8:25 PM EDT|
|Tampa Bay||Sun 09/22||1:00 PM EDT|
|@ Atlanta||Sun 09/29||8:30 PM EDT|
|@ Cincinnati||Sun 10/06||1:00 PM EDT|
|New Orleans||Sun 10/13||4:25 PM EDT|
|@ New York Jets||Sun 10/20||1:00 PM EDT|
|Miami||Sun 10/27||1:00 PM EDT|
|Pittsburgh||Sun 11/03||4:25 PM EST|
|@ Carolina||Mon 11/18||8:40 PM EST|
|Denver||Sun 11/24||8:30 PM EST|
|@ Houston||Sun 12/01||4:25 PM EST|
|Cleveland||Sun 12/08||1:00 PM EST|
|@ Miami||Sun 12/15||1:00 PM EST|
|@ Baltimore||Sun 12/22||8:30 PM EST|
|Buffalo||Sun 12/29||1:00 PM EST|