Are The Pats REALLY That Good?

14 12 2007

New England PatriotsOr is the NFL just that bad?

This was a question that’s been bothering me a little recently. Makes a good bar conversation, so asked a few people around the traps what they thought.

Rob (regular commenter, and bit-writer here as Brumbygg9)
PatsiesQuite simply put, the Patriots are that good, but the rest of the NFL is doing a great job of keeping them that way. Remember the good old days when they were simply the Patsies? Don and I used to get together in the early 90s with a bunch of friends late on a Monday night to eat hot dogs, drink beer and watch the game of the week presented by Don Lane (any Aussie remember this?) back when ineptitude was spelt N-E-W E-N-G-L-A-N-D.

What happened to change it? Two things, Bill Belichick who gets ALL the credit and Scott Pioli who is probably the best front office guy in football and shares the award with Theo Epstein as the best in pro sports. These two have drafted well (Tom who?) and traded well (Welker and Moss this year) and plugged gaps when it seemed that no one could fill them (no Adam Vinatieri? No problem, let’s give the job to Stephen Gostowski who is 16/19 on FG and hasn’t missed a PAT since the last time the Fish won a game). Along the way they molded a truly great football team that performs year after year after year – no mean feat in the age of parity and salary caps. Of course, it helps when your best player takes less money so that you can go out and attract top free agents to make your team even better. The Patriots have a “team first” mentality that is unmatched anywhere in the professional sports world.

The Patriot cause is helped by two things – fear and, well, fear. Teams are afraid to take on the Patriots, they are afraid of getting blown out and they are afraid of beating them. See the games against the Colts, Eagles and Ravens who were afraid to win and didn’t. It helps that the team has an unshakeable belief in their ability to win any game. They pretty much are not afraid of anything, except maybe Drew Bledsoe suiting up again.

The other fear comes at the trade table. The two most productive receivers on the team cost them a disabled schnauzer and 498th round draft pick. What were those teams thinking? Agreed that Moss was damaged goods, but look at his “team first” mentality now (well, most of the time anyway cos’ he still plays for Randy Moss at heart!) and you don’t think the Fish would like to rethink the deal they made to let Welker go – and to a division rival at that! Why? Fear, plain and simple. Belichick and Pioli are the great stand over men of the modern era, the school yard bullies taking the other kids’ lunch money and giving them atomic wedgies.

The legacy of this extraordinary team has been tarnished a little over video gate, but they will still go down as one of the best of all time. To win anything in the modern NFL you still have to go through New England, which is now spelt A-W-E-S-O-M-E.

Eric AngevineStorming the Floor
The short answer is that I do believe the Patriots are that good. If they had come out of nowhere, I’d have my doubts, but Belichick basically took a team that was nearly championship-worthy last year and added exactly the parts he needed to become incredible.

Damnation, but is Randy even human?A bored Randy Moss on an unsuccessful Raiders team. A highly motivated, undersized Wes Welker from a Conference rival. Sure as hell beats the crap out of Troy Brown and Reche Caldwell, eh? This is really the only part of the Pats’ success that bugs me – I despise watching Randy Moss just out-jump people in the end zone, and laze around when he knows he’s not getting the ball. But I guess he can get away with it, so boo-hoo to me and the rest of the NFL.

Now, would this team win if we traded Belicheat to San Diego for Norv Turner? They’d probably go 10-6 and lose in the second round of the playoffs. So as much of a crusty bastard as Coach Hobo might be, I still give him tons of credit for making this team play to their potential, and for devising game plans that bamboozle his opponents.

Lots of teams have made a business of acquiring the most dazzling coaching resumes and paying dearly for the biggest names in free-agency (Hi, Danny Snyder), but they’ve never come close to refining this elegant system of finding the right player for the system. The Patriots have done that – so kudos to them… the heartless, Bill-Simmons-encouraging bastards. If the Celtics win it all this year, Boston will definitely move past New York in the “most hated sports fans” derby.

Jon PylePyle of List
Yes, the Patriots really are that good. Their passing game is on a completely different level and their running game is better than it appears. If you could pass the ball like that, why run? The defense is solid, but certainly their weakest link. But, that doesn’t mean they will be undefeated or win the Super Bowl.

Best ever?If a team catches them on the right day, they can lose just like anyone else. With that said, it’s going to take an excellent gameplan and flawless execution to shut down their passing game. I also think a team would have a chance in a shootout, if they got a few breaks. What the announcers won’t say is that the problem with beating the Pats is that opposing coaches’ egos are too big to adjust properly and they’re afraid to make drastic changes in fear of losing their job. Belichick is like an expert poker player because he’s playing the men across from him at the table more than the cards. While he holds some very good cards, it’s not a royal flush, so the players on the field can be beaten with the right gameplan.

However, that takes nothing away from how good this team really is. Whether they lose or not, this is one of the most spectacular NFL teams we’ve seen in quite some time.

David FriedmanBest Ever Sports Talk
We can’t definitively answer this question until after the Super Bowl. For the sake of discussion, let’s assume that the Patriots go 19-0. If the Dolphins go 0-16 then two of the Patriots’ wins would have come against one of the worst teams ever–but the Patriots also beat the defending Super Bowl champions (Indianapolis), the best regular season team in the NFC this year (Dallas) and a strong Pittsburgh team that many experts thought matched up perfectly with New England. Overall, the Patriots are playing a stronger schedule than the 1972 Dolphins did and are winning their games by a wider margin.

I don’t see any evidence that the NFL is “that bad.” Years ago, Commissioner Pete Rozelle tried to create parity and that has been a major characteristic of the league not just this year but for quite some time, which makes what New England is doing even more remarkable. New England’s success this season has to be placed in the context of the fact that the Patriots’ coach-quarterback duo not only has already won three Super Bowls but also set an NFL record in 2003-04 by winning 18 straight regular season games (21 in a row if you count the 2003 playoffs); that is a powerful reason to believe that the Patriots will go 19-0–they’ve already won that many games in a row before and they did it with a team that, on paper, was not as strong as this year’s squad. Remember when some pundits suggested that the departure of assistant coaches Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel would be New England’s undoing? The 2007 Patriots are first in the league by wide margins in points scored and yards gained–and their recently maligned defense is fourth in yards against and fourth in points allowed, resulting in a scoring differential of 21.6 ppg, much better than any of New England’s Super Bowl teams. That differential is more than 15 of the 32 NFL teams score on average!

Back in October, I wrote Tom Brady Is Rewriting the Record Book

Is Brady the greatest quarterback ever? That sounds like a sacrilegious question but Brady only needs one Super Bowl ring to match Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana (four each). What are we supposed to think if Brady wins his fourth Super Bowl after shattering the single season statistical standards set by the likes of Manning and Dan Marino? Has Tom Brady Sold His Soul?

If Brady maintains his lofty individual numbers and the Patriots go 19-0 en route to winning a fourth Super Bowl title in seven years–an amazing feat in the free agency era–then not only would the Patriots have to be on the very short list of greatest teams of all-time but serious consideration would have to be given to ranking Brady as the greatest quarterback in NFL history. At that point, he would be a combination of Dan Marino and Terry Bradshaw–the ultimate numbers guy and the ultimate winner.

More on this from more people early next week…

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4 responses

14 12 2007

Pat’s are THAT good.

15 12 2007
Aaron Becker

It’s what happens when a great QB finally gets a great WR. No one over thought Rice’s TD record was touchable till this year.

6 01 2008

Take away four of Randy Moss’s games and see if he still breaks the record. Rice did what no receiver could do in 16, in 12. He’s still the greatest ever.

6 01 2008

I agree Chris… tho’ this season from Moss ranks as one of the greatest ever by a receiver.

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