How does the saying go? You can't keep a good man down?
You can just as easily say the same thing about jerks.
It has been quite a while, but it would appear that Hank is back, and he's making some noise. If you have been reading my stuff for a while now, you know quite well who Hank is, so feel free to skip down to the next paragraph. But for those who are newer to Pats Pulpit: Hank is what I have named my inner Patriots fan. We all have a little man or woman inside us whose sole purpose in life seems to be to make our lives miserable, to stress us out when we don't really need to be stressed, and to ensure that we never have any fin. That, my friends, is Hank to a T - at least when it comes to the Patriots. Hank is an eternal pessimist, never for one moment believing the Patriots are going to win the game until the final whistle blows - and even then, he'll still think about nothing but that failed 3rd down conversion or the incomplete pass that Brady should have delivered. He refuses to appreciate how great we have it as Patriots fans, never focuses on anything but the negative, thinks more about Tommy B's two Super Bowl losses than he does is four wins and six appearances, and more or less rains on every Patriots parade that has ever traveled the streets of Boston.
And as much as I try to keep him at bay, and as infrequent as his appearances have been over the past few seasons, I have more or less come to grips with the fact that for as long as I'm a football fan (which, at the rate at which the league is declining and sweeping unforgivable injustices under the rug, might not be much more than another few seasons), Hank is simply going to be part of my fan experience. He's going to start yelling, whether I'm expecting it or not, and unless I indulge him every once in a while to shut him the hell up, he's going to take over my life.
So, for the first time this season, as we head into the second quarter of the 2016 NFL calendar, it's time to silence Hank.
But Alec, the Patriots just lost to the Bills! An AFC East defeat! AT HOME! Buffalo is only one game back! And that loss was UGLY! What are we going to do?
Shut up, Hank. Yep...the Patriots just lost to the Bills. And yep...the Bills deserve a lot of credit for that win. But you know what else? That was just a lousy game all around, and for whatever reason, lousy games are to be expected from the Patriots from time to time. I won't even go into the fact that the injured rookie QB who started most of his drives in crappy field position due to some nincompoopery from the special teams wasn't able to generate any offense and instead look at this game the same way I looked at last year's game vs. the Eagles or 2014's game vs. the Chiefs or 2013's game vs. the Bengals - sometimes the Patriots just forget to show up. It happens, and you know that Belichick has been letting everyone at 1 Patriot Place have it for three straight days now. The team will be fine. Relax.
But Tom Brady hasn't played in a month! He's going to be rusty! He's on the road to open up the season against Cleveland! The Browns have beaten the Patriots in the past! What if the Patriots lose?
Shut up, Hank. I don't even know where to start with this one, to be honest. Yeah, Tommy B hasn't played in a month. he has spent that time training for four hours a day, throwing passes to high school and college students (not to mention another 6 foot receiver), and when he isn't sunbathing nude in Italy, thinking nonstop about coming back and getting to work. And what better team to get back into the swing of things than the 0-4 Browns, who have more or less been relying on Terrelle Pryor to carry the entire team? Sure Cleveland has beaten the Patriots in the past - but as I just mentioned, New England is almost guaranteed to put up one or two absolute stinkers every single season, and they're coming off the heels of one in last week's game. The odds of them having two horrible games in a row are slimmer than the odds of Roger Goodell passing a science test whose first question involves pV=nRT, and those odds shrink even more when you take into account Brady's locker room presence and what he brings to the table as a leader. And even if they do lose, so what? How worried are you about the AFC East right now? Will the Patriots not make the playoffs? Is that what you're really saying here?
But Alec, Gronk is hurt! He isn't himself! He's going to re-aggravate his hamstring and go on IR again and the Patriots won't be the same!
Shut up, Hank. Suggestion: let's let Gronk see the field for a little while, with Brady under center, before we head down to Shady Pines Cemetery and pick him out a nice plot with a water view. The Patriots haven't really needed Gronk to do much, courtesy of The Imagination Agency's Valedictorian Martellus Bennett, and so they haven't seen a need to to anything too crazy in terms of working him back into the offense. Gronk is absolutely an injury risk; that's something that comes with the territory. But he's also the most dangerous weapon in football and has an excellent chance to go down as the greatest tight end of all time, so maybe we should pump the breaks on calling it a career for Gronk at the moment.
But Alec, the Broncos are good! They're undefeated! Tom Brady can't win in Denver!
Shut up, Hank. Let me make sure I have this straight: heading into Week 5, you're sitting here, at 3-1, worried about going to Denver for the AFC Championship Game? is that what you're telling me? You have decided to forego the next 12 games, ignore the Divisional Round, and are simply assuming that it will be New England at Denver for the right to go to the Super Bowl? No wonder everybody hates Patriots fans. I have an idea: how about we follow the Patriots, worry about Denver when we play them in late December, and just let the season play out without obsessing over it? Obsessing over a team you don't follow is what Patriots haters do; might I suggest you use your time and energy more wisely and...oh, I don't know...enjoy watching your team play instead.