Former Carolina Panthers and Baltimore Ravens WR Steve Smith Sr. joined ESPN’s First Take to break down the AFC playoff picture. As is tradition, the discussion revolved around “what team can beat the New England Patriots?” Smith shed some light on who might offer the best competition in the AFC, and why the Patriots are so good at disrupting opposing offenses.
“I think the biggest threat can be, potentially, the Kansas City Chiefs,” Smith said. “I think overall they’re a more well rounded team. I think defensively they create a lot of issues, but then offensively they are very explosive, but they also can become methodical down the field.
“And I think when you’re playing the New England Patriots, you have to be patient. They do a very good job of making teams impatient, a la the Baltimore Ravens. When we become very impatient, you start to do things that are uncharacteristic and when you do that, you make mistakes and then all of sudden you find yourself down 14 points in the beginning of the second quarter, very quickly. I remember that game where we didn’t even have the ball, you know they had the ball for 10 minutes straight. So they do a very good job of dinking-and-dunk.
“You know, Tom Brady is doing a great job without [Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski], without some of the big name guys he’s had in the past, but that makes his legacy even bigger. Because no matter who you put out there, he makes those guys better. He’s very methodical, he can carve you up, just like you said about [Packers QB] Aaron Rodgers, but I think he’s a step above Aaron Rodgers... several steps.”
While I think Smith is underrating WR Julian Edelman, he makes a valid point. Teams that have had success against the Patriots this year have pushed the tempo and chewed the defense apart with crossing patterns. Chiefs QB Alex Smith specializes in short tosses and would play right into that strategy.
As for Smith’s thoughts on Brady, it’s always nice to hear compliments from a competitor. How many other quarterbacks could lose their #1 offensive option and still produce at MVP-caliber levels? There aren’t many. To call Brady “several steps” better than Rodgers is a huge compliment as both players are in the running for this year’s MVP award.