Are you ready for some football?
Interesting that in the country’s GREATEST sports mecca, not a single post of anticipation, disgust, or even general reference to our very own defending Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots, whose quest toward their 3rd Super Bowl in 4 years begins tonight.
I don’t think it’s unreasonable to look at the Patriots as the 21st century’s first NFL dynasty. This is a team that is solid from the owner all the way thru to the waterboy, folks. Much can be debated about their shoddy preseason showing, but as an avid football fan of 30+ years, here’s my take: the preseason is evaluation time. They play at half-speed, and the primetime starters spend less than 1 quarter per game on the field. No coach wants to show his hand in the preseason. The real work is done during practice.
The New England Patriots have the best coach in football in Bill Bellichick. He knows personnel, and his staff are the league’s elite from the offensive and defensive coordinators to the trainers and position coaches to the scouts and the draft managers. He delegates and trusts his staff, and they do a very refined job. This is the core of a dynasty. In order to be competitive year in and year out, key elements must gel and remain intact. This has happened somehow for the Patriots. Other teams have not had this type of success or continuity.
They say it’s very difficult to sustain a dynasty in today’s NFL, with the salary cap. But this has most to do with the players. If the coach, GM, and owner share their responsibilities and shed their egos enough to stay in their roles, a quality staff can sustain a program regardless of the players that come and go. That is what is happening with the New England Patriots.
It is my personal assessment that the New England Patriots have an outstanding chance to repeat as Super Bowl Champions. Finally, we’ll talk about the players. Tom Brady is the consummate leader, the perfect fit for the Bellichick system. Arguments can be made that he is a league MVP type. I won’t go there. No matter what you think personally, there is no disputing that Tom Brady is Bill Bellichick’s QB.
The offseason signing of Corey Dillon is interesting. Many see him as a selfish player. I see him as a guy who never got a chance to be as great as he can be. He stuck it out for a long time in Cincinnati, and mostly, as far as I could tell, made the majority of the plays for that team. He held an NFL record for yardage in a single game. He can block, catch and do alot of things that Bellichick and offensive genius Charlie Weiss will surely use him for. Most importantly, he can be Bill Bellichick’s RB.
Bellichick did a very nice job with the whinings of Ty Law, who I believe to be a great DB, but has way more potential to disrupt this team than Corey Dillon. Bellichick will keep both these players under control.
The LB core is solid as any in the league, and has awesome depth. Tedy Bruschi is a force against the pass and the run, and the Bellichick gap-control system is these guys’ specialty. A concern exists with the departure of the massive Ted Washington in the middle, and the underrated Bobby Hamilton, who both went to the Raiders. Again, I point to the system. While the preseason chaos of the Bengals running amok thru this line is still fresh in all of our memories, my sense is that the adjustments will be made in time. These guys know they are playing for the Super Bowl Champions, for a fantastic head coach who will not take “L” for an answer, and he will guide them.
This year will see many unsung heroes. I was surprised to see the departure of local boy and fan favorite Mike Cloud who played his college ball locally at Boston College. He seemed to be an X-factor, and continued his impressive showing with the second team against Jacksonville. But he has now become more fodder for me to say, Mr. Bellichick has a player in mind to fill Mr. Cloud’s role in the system.
I speak with confidence, not with cockiness. This is not a team of destiny. This is a dominant football team.
Facing Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts to open the season is just what the doctor ordered. If the Colts did their homework, they will again come out powering on offense, against the dominant Pats’ defense. If they can move the ball, this will be a fantastic game, as was the AFC Championship game. I am personally a huge Peyton Manning fan… until he plays the Patriots. I would love to see this game be a closely-played, hard-nose, mistake-free football game. But there is bound to be some kinks.
Many people are talking about the enforcement of the 5-yard contact rule on the DBs covering wide receivers, and they say this will impede the Patriots ability to play a team with speedy receivers and a QB who can read defenses well. They are saying receivers will get separation, and offenses like the Colts’ will reign. Well, I buy the adage: DEFENSE WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS. With Bellichick and Crennel masterminding the coverages and defensive schemes, this rule will be a mere hangnail on the Patriots’ defensive pinky. I predict they will overcome in style.
This game will be decided by turnovers, and it will be the Colts who are the victims. My prediction: Pats 24, Colts 17. GO PATS!