Monday, December 17, 2007

Homefield Disadvantage?

The Patriots became the 2nd team in NFL history to reach the 14-0 mark matching the 1972 Dolphins perfect regular season (in '72 the Regular Season was only 14 games rather than 16) and wrapped up homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. The Patriots officially are playing for nothing but the W as the results of the remaining two games will have no effect on their post season seeding.

I'm conflicted about what to do now. I think that resting most of the key starters would be beneficial in allowing them to heal, rest and prepare for the post season. BUT, there is the possibility that without game conditions they may lose their edge like the Colorado Rockies before the World Series. With the last two weeks of the season and the bye week off this is a serious concern, but the Rockies were young and inexperienced, Tom Brady and the Patriots have been there before and know what it takes to be champions. What would be best? Probably enough playing time to keep the starters sharp, but otherwise rest them.

On to the game...

The Patriots beat Mangini and the Jets 20-10. The weather conditions in this game was a huge factor. It had snowed the night before and was still snowing in Boston around game time. The FieldTurf looked excellent, but Tom Brady did not. The wind caused the ball to carry. The wet ball led to dropped and bobbled passes. This was the primary reason for Tom Brady's bad game. Leave it to Laurence Maroney to make me look stupid by putting up a great game right after I got through trashing his season up to this point. I'll forgive him for this one. The reason the Patriots won this game was actually the defense and special teams. Eugene Wilson provided the Patriots with a touchdown by returning an interception for a touchdown on the first drive of the game after Jets QB Kellen Clemens got a good look at the FieldTurf compliments of Patriots DT Richard Seymour. Clemens injured his ribs on that play and would not return. The only offensive touchdown was gift wrapped for them by a blocked punt by Kelley Washington placing them deep in Jets territory. The Jets also had a touchdown compliments of a botched punt attempt as Patriots punter Chris Hanson couldn't get a handle on the football and gave the Jets time to block the punt and return it for a touchdown. Other than that, this game was a showcase of offensive failures. The Patriots had problems moving the ball all game and the Jets squandered multiple trips to the Red Zone as the Patriots defense improved on it's early season failures in the red zone. There was a brief reprieve in the game called after the fans began throwing snowballs at the Jets bench and the camera showed a large chunk of ice thrown onto the field.

I'm starting to wonder if it's a good thing that the Patriots have homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. It seems that the Patriots lose their explosiveness on offense when the weather conditions get bad. Tom Brady's lackluster games against the Ravens in the Wind Bowl and this so-so game in a messy home game wasn't encouraging. If these conditions had hit when the Patriots were playing a better team than the Ravens or the Jets the quest for 19-0 might be over. I'm not concerned about the remaining games this season. A loss would be bad, but I'd prefer another Super Bowl trophy to a perfect season with a post-season collapse when Tom Brady can't win the game because they're so dependent upon their passing game. Then again, playing in Pittsburgh or Cleveland probably wouldn't be much of an improvement over Foxborough.

Elsewhere in the League...

The Dolphins ended the quest for 0-16 with an overtime win over the Ravens thanks to a botched field goal kick by the Ravens kicker. It might be nice that the Dolphins no longer have that chip on their shoulder when they come into Foxborough next Sunday, or maybe it'll be bad now that they've had a taste of victory and have a chance to break up the perfect season. I suppose only time will tell.

The 49ers managed to slip by the Bengals on Saturday night moving the Patriots draft pick down a few spots.

The Browns beat the Bills 8-0 in near blizzard conditions. That wasn't a touchdown with a two point conversion either, that's two field goals and a safety. I thought the snow here was bad. The Browns are poised for a playoff spot if they don't screw up the last two weeks.

The Jaguars beat the Steelers at home to help set themselves up for the wild card and for being the only team to beat the Steelers at home I'm granting the Jaguars official "Dark Horse" status. The Jaguars are also the only likely playoff contender that the Patriots haven't already beaten and have a solid 10-4 record. Their losses this season include two to the Colts, their opener against the Titans and a loss to the Saints without their starting QB.

Carolina upset the Seahawks to ensure a first round bye for the Cowboys in the playoffs.

The Colts didn't wow anybody by beating the Raiders by 7 points, but wrapped up their division.

Dallas had a terrible game against the Philadelphia Eagles to keep things interesting in the NFC. The Eagles seem to be playing much better down the stretch. They gave the Patriots a run for their money and were the only team besides the Patriots to close the deal against Dallas this season.

The Chargers wrapped up the AFC West with a big 51-14 win over the Detriot Lions. Jon Kitna threw 5 interceptions, hard to win games that way. This is another team that seems to have really gotten it's act together down the stretch. This is another team I wouldn't mind avoiding in the playoffs.

The Redskins beat up on the Giants in New York to keep their playoff hopes alive. Hopefully this is an indicator of how the Giants plan to play for the remainder of the season.


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