It's hard to argue against our New England Patriots being the best team that didn't make it into the playoffs. With all we've had to contend with, the injuries, the number of different starters (42), and a very competitive division, the Patriots have still managed a very respectable 11-5 showing. Whooda thunk? On the low end of the scale, I figured 8-8 and on the high end, 12-4. We came darn close to the high end.
I'd be a raging homer if I didn't admit schedule had something to do with it...but not all of it. You're blind if you think the ease of schedule ratings of Sept, 2008 apply now. Most of those rating are based off of your 2007 division rival's performances. The AFC East was horrid: 1-15, 4-12, 7-9. Remember, we play our neighbors a total of 6 times. Only the Bills haven't improved with yet another 7-9 showing and 0-6 against division rivals. NY and Miami made our 2008 lives way more difficult. Sure, we traded wins and went 4-2 in our division, but it was not the same as 2007; it's a much stronger AFC East.
There will be a lot of "a great season for what they went through" talk in the media. I would agree to a certain extent. But, Bill Belichick doesn't care. He's the Terminator of coaches - always predictable and always the same. Win, win, win. He's never satisfied, never resting, and he NEVER lets up on the gas pedal. Drop a few passes, Jabar? Benched. Too slow to cover? See ya, Deltha. Snow angel after a touchdown? Who cares if you're one of the top receivers in the league. Hoodie will remove a pound of flesh...and he should.
Consistency, drive, and determination creates winning franchises. Be consistent, set the bar high and good players will buy into it. Jetison the rest. Oddly enough, this strategy seems to follow Mr. Parcells wherever he goes. Hardass? You bet. A winning football person? Yep. Smart people learn from the best and Bill Belichick is no dummy.
There'll be much to talk about these coming weeks and months. Will Tom recover for 2009? What will the front office do with Cassel? Will Scott Pioli be swayed by a GM position elsewhere? Will Josh McDaniels get the HC nod? I don't know about you, but many big problems were fixed in 2008. If Tom's healthy, we fix the defensive backfield, and get some youth on the OL, I'm stoked about 2009. For now, we'll have to enjoy not being in the spotlight for once. I'm bummed my team isn't in the postseason, but I plan on enjoying football for football's sake - great plays, drama, and 5 more weeks of beer and hot wings on Sunday.