Must win, must win, must win... we've been hearing this for the last few games. With such a tight race in the AFC East, we can't hand the division over simply because of a loss. Even winning out doesn't guarantee a playoff berth; in that case, we'd be one of the only teams to go 11-5 and not make it into the playoffs. This is why I dismiss the unwashed as simplistic when they claim we've benefitted from an easy schedule. As you all know, calculating ease of schedule is based on the prior year's performance. Division rivals play heavily as they account for 6 games per season. Remember when NY and Miami were laughing stocks? No more. They are legitimate contenders, making our schedule even tougher. Easiest schedule in the NFL...look a little deeper, Einstein.
This bring me to the Arizona Cardinals. One could say they've benefitted from a very weak NFC West. SF, Seattle, and St. Louis are their division rivals, BTW. One could say that and I think they'd be right. If you believe in Cold, Hard, Football Facts' quality standings, Arizona is 2-5 against quality opponents (those with a winning record) while the Pats sit at 3-4. Sure, it's only a 1 game difference, but what the heck; I thought I'd throw it out there. What is more revealing is CHFF's Bendability Index, a measure of how hard a team's defense makes an opponent work for points: Patriots 15th and Cardinals 31st. With all of the injuries we've sustained and all of the key vets knocked out for the season, we still rank in the middle for this stat.
Where the Patriots don't measure up is the Scoreability Index: Cardinals 8th, Patriots 17th. The bottom line with these indices is that teams at the top are playoff teams which makes this matchup so interesting. Arizona rates 8th for offense and we, surprisingly enough, 15th on defense, a gap of 7. However, the Patriots offense is 17th to the Cards 31 ranked defense, a gap of 14. Based on CHFF, we would appear to have a scoring advantage. One can only hope Matt discovers Randy and carpet bombs Arizona's defensive backfield.
Whew, my brain hurts.