First off, I should apologize for my relative silence this past week, but with Hurricane Sandy hitting New York City like Dont'a Hightower on Sam Bradford on Monday, I have been spending most of my time outside helping people clean up and assisting all the delis and corner stores that lost power by drinking all of their beer and eating all of their ice cream so as to not to waste any food. Hopefully all of you fans on the East Coast came away from the storm unscathed and everyone is starting to get back to normal.
Based on the hurricane alone, this really was the perfect week for the Patriots to have a bye. Who knows if they even would have been able to practice on Monday and Wednesday anyway, and team travel plans could have been affected as well. Weather aside, though, this bye really couldn't be coming at a better time. There are a good number of players who could use the extra week to deal with any nagging injuries, and I'd bet that most -if not all - of the team is tired of travelling and very much looking forward to a long weekend. Furthermore, the Pats put forth their best team effort of the season last Sunday against the Rams and have built a decent amount of momentum into the softer part of their schedule where they are in position to put a stranglehold on the AFC East.
I'm not sure if I mentioned it before or not, but I used to absolutely despise bye weeks. I hated them. The Patriots weren't playing, there wasn't a game I was really looking forward to, and I found myself jealous of all the fans out there who got to celebrate a victory. I couldn't wait for the Patriots to get back onto the field so I could resume my weekly regimen of binge eating, loud cheering, and air humping. The bye week to me was like waking up expecting a snow day from school but only getting a 1 hour delay. But as of late, I have found that I have developed a greater appreciation for bye weeks. Not only does the team need this week off in the worst way, but I realized that we as fans need a week off as well. Being an NFL fan ain't easy; in a short season where every game matters and you have to cram as much excitement and enthusiasm as possible into each and every play, it can be downright exhausting.
Bye weeks aren't just about rest, though. This is also our chance to do all the stuff we put off all season in favor of watching Pats games. I thought it would be helpful if I put together a little to-do list for anyone looking to make the most out of this bye week. This list isn't just for me; it's for anyone looking to actually be productive for once this weekend and doesn't quite know how to prioritize their day.
Get healthy. While the players are resting ankles, icing shoulders, and massaging hamstrings, we can all enjoy a week free of pacing, sweating, yelling at the TV, and narrowly avoiding a heart attack. I know that my ticker needs this as much as anyone's, and so I'm going to use this bye week to decompress and maybe eat a salad or two. I'm definitely looking forward to sitting down this Sunday with no responsibilities other than to root against the Dolphins and Bills.
Yard work. Those leaves aren't going to rake themselves, and all that debris that blew down from the storm doesn't make your yard look pretty. And since I'm pretty sure doing yard work on Saturdays became illegal at some point during the Regan administration, odds are that there are a number of yards out there that has fallen victim to football season. Well this is your chance, everyone. Crack open the shed, break out the tools, and get to work. Of course, to those of you who have children, you can simply disregard this paragraph; just make them do it under the guise of "teaching them the value of hard work and responsibility." That phrase right there is the greatest racket that adults currently have going, and I'm relying on you current parents to uphold it so it's still around by the time I get around to having kids.
Evaluate the rest of the AFC. It's hard to get a real read on a lot of the other teams when all I get is highlights, and I'm looking forward to watching a significant portion of what is a pretty exciting slate of Week 9 Games. The game I'm looking forward to the most, obviously, is Dolphins vs. Colts, as it seems clear by now that the Fins are the 2nd best team in the AFC East and will be New England's stiffest competition for the division title. I have seen virtually nothing of the Dolphins this season, and Sunday will be a good chance to correct that. This week also has the Texans playing the Bills, the Steelers playing the Giants, and for once I'll be able to flip from game to game at will without worrying I'm going to miss a long touchdown bomb from whatever quarterback the Pats are playing against that week.
Re-establish communication with loved ones. If your significant other doesn't happen to share your typical brand of Patriots mania, then odds are that he or she is very tolerant and understanding of the fact that you are completely off limits for at least 3 hours each week and is willing to put up with the violent mood swings and rampant elation and despair that accompanies each Patriots win or loss. It takes a very special person to stick with a football nut, and this is our week to give back. Treat your special someone to a day trip somewhere, or take him/her out to lunch. Experience what those of us who aren't glued to the couch every weekend call "a beautiful Sunday afternoon." It will pay off big time come playoff season - trust me. At the moment, I don't think that the girlfriend knows that the Patriots are on a bye this week, and I haven't decided whether or not I'm going to tell her or make it seem like I'm willingly giving up watching the game this Sunday in order to take her to the farmer's market; she knows that I love football just as much as I loathe farmer's markets, so that should score me some serious points.