In this week's game recap, Andrew Weiss of The Jets Blog wrote,
Now any team coming off a near-perfect season is likely to decline a bit, but I'm not talking about a little regression here. The reign of the Patriots as a dominant team in the National Football League has come to an end. The dynasty is over.
Some might say that this season is a fluke, the Tom Brady injury didn't exactly forebode good things, and the rest of the New England Roster haven't been examples of great health either. However, I think the injuries, rather than being flukes, are part of the Patriots decline. The Patriots have long been a team of savvy veterans, a team of discipline and football wisdom. The downside is that older players have a greater tendency towards injury, see the New York Yankees as further proof.
So yeah, next season the Patriots may get Tom Brady back. Rodney Harrison may return, Adailus Thomas should be fine and Laurence Maroney could survive an entire season. But that's all unlikely. Thanks to post-surgical infections, it is doubtful that Tom Brady can return in time to start the season. Even when he does return it is unlikely that he will be at full health. Surgeries like his tend to take a good 18 months to fully recover from, and some players like Carson Palmer are never the same again. Tom Brady isn't so young anymore, he'll be 32 at the start of next season and may be slow to bounce back. As for the rest of the injuries, Rodney Harrison is likely to retire, Adailus Thomas is older than most casual fans think and Laurence Maroney may just be the J.D. Drew of the NFL.
Another cause of their decline is a lack of young talent. The NFL draft has not been so kind to this franchise in recent years. Losing a first round draft pick to forfeit thanks to Spygate doesn't help, nor does consistently drafting towards the end, but the Patriots' fetish for spending high draft picks on tight ends hasn't solved many problems either. Jerod Mayo looks to be a solid selection from this year's draft, but you have to go back all the way to Logan Mankins in 2005 to find the last impact player drafted by the Patriots. Throw in Vince Wilfork in 2004 and these impact guys are all first round picks. The Patriots have long been known to poses an extremely deep roster, but that depth has been depleted recently thanks in large part to a failure to find all that much talent after the second round since 2003.
Add up an aging roster lacking in young talent, an injured franchise quarterback who may never return to full health and abilities, and that little time bomb that is Randy Moss's ego waiting to explode, and the New England Patriots are clearly a team that have already seen their best days, a team on the decline.
Needless to say, my pick was New York Jets (+3½) over NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS.
Game of the Week
GREEN BAY PACKERS (-5½) over Chicago Bears
Kyle Orton should return this week, which is a good thing for the Bears because their defense has been living by reputation lately rather than results. However, in the end the Packers will pull off the home win and get right back in the race for the NFC North.
Monday Night Cheerleader
BUFFALO BILLS (-4½) over Cleveland Browns
In this week's episode of How I Met Your Mother, Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) explained the "Cheerleader Effect" or how I group of hot girls will seem hotter than they actually are when taken individually. I don't think this applies to NFL cheerleaders in general, these are the hottest of the hot, but this Cheerleader Effect can very well apply to Buffalo and the Buffalo Jills Cheerleading Squad. Let's just say the competition was not so hot for the Monday Night Cheerleader this week. I eventually had to give the title to Alecia, a rookie of the squad, who was actually excited for a Toronto "home game".
Lock of the Week
Philadelphia Eagles (-9½) over CINCINNATI BENGALS
The Eagles showed again last Sunday Night that despite all of their talent, they just have a few too many glaring weaknesses, clock management being a crucial one, to win against good teams. Luckily for them, the Bengals are anything but good.
Upset of the Week
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (+4½) over New Orleans Saints
Herman Edwards plays to win, and the Chiefs are bound to win another game this year and the Reggie Bush-less Saints seem to be as likely as any other team to provide that win. Besides, has anyone noticed the numbers that Tyler Thigpen has been putting up recently?
ATLANTA FALCONS (-5½) over Denver Broncos
NFC South rule, take the home team.
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS over Houston Texans (+8½)
And now begins a stretch of relatively easy games for the Colts before they host the Titans at the end of the season for what is likely to be a meaningless games. It is highly likely that the Colts can go 5-2 the rest of the way to end up at 10-6, grab a Wild Card, and then be everyone's sleeper playoff team before losing in the first round. Sometimes the NFL really is predictable.
MIAMI DOLPHINS over Oakland Raiders (+10½)
There will be at least two Wildcat plays this week where we'll just be left wondering whether Tom Cable and the Raiders have paid any attention to scouting other teams.
NEW YORK GIANTS (-6½) over Baltimore Ravens
This game worries me a bit. I think this can be one of those games where the Giants come out a little too confident, while the Ravens are perfectly matched up — stuff the run and make Eli win the game — to exploit the Giants' weaknesses. And yet I'm still not sold on Joe Flacco on the road.
Minnesota Vikings (+3½) over TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
An Adrian Peterson game.
CAROLINA PANTHERS over Detroit Lions (+14½)
The Lions have been improving recently, though I do use that term loosely. Prior to last week, the Lions haven't lost a game by more than eight points since week five against the Bears. I think they continue to lose some close ones the next few weeks. Lose being the key word.
Tennessee Titans (-2½) over JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
Last week's Titans/Bears game reminds me of the Giants/Patriots week seventeen game from last season. The Bears, like the Giants, created the blueprint for beating an undefeated team, without actually winning. The blueprint to beat the Titans is actually pretty simple, though hard in practice: stuff their running game — and don't let Rex Grossman give the game away. Like I mentioned, easier said than done. Looking at the upcoming schedule, the sixth-ranked Jets run defense and second-ranked Pittsburgh run defense should pose the greatest problems.
St. Louis Rams (+3½) over SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
West Coast teams are winless when traveling to the East Coast this season. I think that has less to do with the travel and more to do with most West Coast teams being downright terrible. This game is exhibit A.
Arizona Cardinals (-3½) over SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
It really is sad that thanks to their division the Cardinals are likely to go 10-6 or 11-5 and have a chance at a bye week.
PITTSBURGH STEELERS (-4½) over San Diego Chargers
I don't know what's going on with either of these teams. They both seem that they should be better than they actually are. Does Pittsburgh count as the East Coast?
WASHINGTON REDSKINS (+1½) over Dallas Cowboys
I think the injury that affects this game won't be Tony Romo's, but rather Clinton Portis. Even if Portis is cleared to play, he will be severely limited. However, I think for a single game Ladell Betts can carry the load, and the Cowboys will continue their meltdown for yet another week.
A Blast from the Past
- Straight Up: 11-3 Last Week, 90-54 for the season
- Vs. Spread: 10-4 last week, 80-64 for the season
- Game of the Week: 4-6 straight, 6-4 spread
- Monday Night Cheerleader: 5-5 straight, 4-6 spread
- Lock of the Week: 8-2 straight, 7-3 spread
- Upset of the Week 4-6 straight, 6-4 spread
The Ground Rules
Home team in CAPS, spread in ( paren ). If the spread is listed after the victor, then they will cover. If the spread is listed after the loser, then it will not be covered.
Spreads are taken from ESPN.com. I don't do lines.