Matt Cassel started his first game since High School on Sunday against Brett Favre and the Jets and managed to come out with a solid 19-10 win, making the Patriots 2-0 and talking a number of Patriots fans off the Zakim Bridge. Gone are the showtime Patriots of 2007, back are the win ugly Patriots that brought home 3 Lombardi Trophies.
I wouldn't be foolish enough to suggest that losing the reigning league MVP and resorting to your completely unproven backup is a good thing, but this may bring the Patriots closer to their roots and strategies that made them a dynasty. Smart coaching, smart play and tough defense. This team is still stocked with experience and talent. Long story short: These Patriots still have a shot.
Matt Cassel's performance was reminiscent of Tom Brady circa 2001. Tom made short high percentage passes, avoided high risk throws into coverage, relied on his running game to get the occasional hard yards and did a good job protecting the football. Matt Cassel managed to keep a cool head in one of the toughest venues in the league and proved that he can give this team a real chance to win.
Looking elsewhere in the league, being a solid team might be enough to make it in the AFC. Of the trendy AFC Super Bowl picks only New England and Pittsburgh are still undefeated. Indianapolis hasn't looked at all like Indianapolis. The Colts got embarassed week 1 against the Bears in the first game in their new stadium and were fortunate to get an ugly win against the Vikings that required an Adam Vinatieri last second special. The Chargers are 0-2 after losing two close games to the Panthers and the Broncos. With that said, it took the Chargers some time to hit their stride in 2007 as well, I would not be surprised to see them get their act together in a few weeks and get into the playoff race. Possibly the biggest disappointment in the NFL at this point is the Jacksonville Jaguars. People were calling the Jags the team nobody wanted to play and a defensible Super Bowl pick. After losing to the unheralded Titans in week 1 and the suprising Bills in week 2 experts are backing off this team in a hurry.