So it’s now the beginning of July and we get to bide our time, waiting for the preseason camps to start.
It’s the NFL’s version of the dead zone, where there’s little to report and even less going on; the time of year where the most dedicated and devoted fans suffer from “football withdrawal." This is a painful condition of both a physical and emotional nature, which can take heavy doses of Patriots.com just to alleviate the depression.
Seriously, though, from the sorrow comes joy. In this case, that “joy” comes from fans on various sites such as this one, where misery finds a great deal of company.
During this down time, the world shifts, for just a little while. Redskins fans and Cowboys fans carry on discussions that can go five minutes without arguing. It is at this point in the season where Jets and Patriots fans chat without threats of violence or untoward commentary regarding one’s parentage, where Raiders fans shake hands with Bronco believers in a civil manner.
Okay, so maybe it’s not that good. This isn’t all peace and love after all; it’s FOOTBALL!
Still, we need to pass the time.
So for those Patriots fans out there, I’ll make my game by game preview of the season.
For the anti-Patriots out there, this is an opportunity to use up some of that negative energy by telling me how your team (or someone else’s team) will whip my Pats between the lines.
Don’t hold back!
Week 1: vs. Buffalo
The inclusion of Terrell Owens into the Bills offense will bolster their spirits. However, the bigger issues in this game are the return of Tom Brady and the absence of Marshawn Lynch. Expect the visiting team to fight hard, but I do not foresee this as being a close game.
Patriots win, 31-13. 1-0
Week 2: at NY Jets
This is a heated rivalry, despite—or perhaps because of—the familiar faces on opposite sides.
The absence of Calvin Pace will not have a huge impact, as the Jets staff are well aware of it. The offense of the Jets needs work, and will be a weakness at the start of the season. Their defense should be improved, though, and a great deal tougher.
However, the Patriots defense at this point (one game played) looks quicker, on the ball faster. It’ll be a hard-fought affair, not a blow-out.
Patriots win, 27-17. 2-0
However, he'll be facing a faster, quicker and younger Belichick defense, which will make up for inexperience with speed.
Michael Turner is the big one in this game for the Falcons.
For the Patriots, Tom Brady will have a stellar game against a solid Atlanta defense. With Moss doubled for most of the day, it’ll be up to Galloway and Welker to get it done early, then for the Taylor-led backs to pound it home. This will be a good game.
Patriots win, 30-20. 3-0
This Ravens defense is vicious, and these players get off on their opponents’ pain. That’s not an insult, that’s a compliment. This is football, after all.
However, their defense will take a hit this season, and the Patriots will be ready for them. I’m sure that they’ll have regular viewings of the 2007 matchup, to remind them how they were man-handled in the last game.
A heavy dose of Taylor and Morris will free things up for Maroney and possibly Faulk. The passing game will be less prominent, but there will be at least one big third down play.
Patriots win, 27-13. 4-0
Week 5: at Denver
The first of only two long distance road games, the Patriots visit with old friends Josh McDaniels, Jabar Gaffney, and Daniel Graham. It won’t be a pleasant visit for the home team.
I like Josh, and Bill likes Josh. But this is business, and Belichick isn’t known for his sentimentality.
Brandon Marshall’s involvement could help them, but not by too much.
Patriots win, 38-10. 5-0
Week 6: vs. Tennessee
Staunch defense meets an offense that is just now hitting its stride.
With Brady throwing like it is 2007, and Moss running out patterns rather than going deep, the Patriots will feature a solid short passing game with a lot of run fakes. Taylor will still manage to pull out at least 50 yards as this will become a running game late.
The Patriots run defense will have their hands full, but with the corners doing their jobs, it all works out.
Patriots win, 24-13. 6-0
Week 7: at Tampa Bay (London)
I despise the fact that Tampa loses a home game for this semi-exhibition deal. It’s my opinion that if you’re playing one game a year in London, simply alternate which conference is considered the home team. There’s got to be a way to keep from taking home games.
Anyway, the Bucs aren’t on the Patriots level, regardless of who is under center.
The Patriots win this early with the pass, then grind it out on the poorly maintained fields. (They’re designed for soccer, after all.)
Patriots win, 41-13. 7-0
Week 8: bye
A good deal of resting up is required now.
There are a few players dinged up, but the biggest players of note are Fred Taylor and Joey Galloway.
Taylor’s sprained ankle, suffered against the Titans, limited his touches in London. He’ll be at about 90 percent for the rest of the season, but with the platooning it won’t affect his play all that much.
Galloway’s strained hamstring has limited his work since the Baltimore game, causing him to be deactivated for the London trip. The extra weeks of rest are what the doctor ordered—literally and figuratively—and he’s ready for the second half of the season.
Week 9: vs. Miami
It is early November before New England meets the 2008 AFC East Champs, and the Patriots are running on all cylinders.
The Dolphins are playing strong, but simply cannot match up with the reloaded and rested Patriots offense.
Defensively, Patrick Chung starts his first game in place of James Sanders. He’s been seeing increasing time since his strong play against the Ravens. He responds to the promotion with a fumble recovery, four tackles, and a pass breakup.
The wildcat gets declawed, run only four times for -3 yards and an incompletion. The Dolphins defense is simply overwhelmed, twice put into a bad spot by an offensive turnover.
Patriots win, 34-10. 8-0
Week 10: at Indianapolis
Fans from both teams had this game circled on their schedules. The game doesn’t disappoint, as both sides make great plays on offense and defense.
The difference in this game is two-fold: the Patriots rush attack, and the loss of Matt Light to a knee sprain. Sebastian Vollmer steps in and does admirably, although he does give up a sack on a 3rd and 7 play inside the 35, pushing the Patiots out of fieldgoal range. However, while he is slower against Freeny, the Patriots run behind Vollmer and Mankins for chunks of yardage, finishing off the Colts with an out-and-up by Moss.
Patriots win, 24-17. 9-0
Week 11: vs. NY Jets
The Jets defense is operating at peak efficiency.
The Patriots are playing well on defense, but their offense is shaky with Vollmer making his first start. Sliding protection to the left solves the problem for now, and Welker makes 11 catches for 143 yards and two touchdowns.
Moss only catches three, but for 74 yards and a score.
Laurence Maroney has his best game of the season, rushing for 132 yards and a touchdown late, and only a great open field tackle by Rhodes stops Galloway from a 48 yard touchdown.
Thomas Jones and Leon Washington do their best, but Sanchez simply gets rattled too much as the Jets abandon the run. Three interceptions in the last four possessions ends it.
Patriots win, 44-9. 10-0
Neither defense is particularly effective as the quarterbacks are simply out-of-their-minds good.
Marques Colston gets out of bounds at the 4-yard line with 11 seconds left, and the Saints punch it in with Steven Jackson.
Left with only a handful of seconds, the desperation heave is caught as time expires, but Galloway is tackled at the 28-yard line, well short.
Saints win, 37-35. 10-1
(Come on now, did anyone really think I would predict a 16-0 season?)
Week 13: at Miami
The past is prologue as the Dolphins, losers of three of its past four, cannot get anything going on offense or defense.
The Patriots were put through a vicious week of practice following the Saints loss. The defense responds with five sacks, four interceptions, and two fumble recoveries.
Twice getting the ball inside the red zone, the offense makes good on the opportunities.
Patriots win, 41-12. 11-1
Week 14: vs. Carolina
Jake Delhomme (coincidentally related to one of my assistant coaches) does not respond well to pressure.
Despite this, the game remains close, thanks to the efforts of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, who are spectacular.
Brady has an interception returned for a touchdown for the first time this season, as pressure from Julius Peppers causes an errant throw.
The defense rises to the occasion to end the game with a fourth down stand.
Patriots win, 28-20. 12-1
Week 15: at Buffalo
It’s December, and it’s Buffalo. It’s cold.
The Patriots in their usual atypical fashion start the game with 13 straight passes. Brady hits everybody—Welker first, then Moss, Galloway, Faulk, Baker, Lewis, Welker again, and finally Watson.
The game heats up when Julian Edelman takes a wide receiver reverse and throws a beautiful 39-yard touchdown to Galloway.
Patriots win, 27-10. 13-1
Week 16: vs. Jacksonville
The Jaguars’ tough season doesn’t get any better in Foxboro.
With Jones-Drew out a second consecutive week with a concussion, the weight falls on the shoulders of quarterback David Garrard. The defense, well aware of this, gets after him with abandon.
Patrick Chung has his second straight game with an interception, his fourth in the last four games.
It isn’t all bad for Garrard, as after his four interception game he gets a consolation call from Byron Leftwich.
Patriots win, 31-6. 14-1
Week 17: at Houston
With the AFC East title and homefield in the playoffs sewn up, some in the media think the Patriots might take it easy.
It looks that way early on, as Tom Brady is pulled midway through the second quarter. Belichick feels his statline of 142 yards and a touchdown is sufficient.
The Texans, fighting for their playoff lives, try too hard. Overplaying on defense gives Kevin O’Connell a great day, and the Titans (who make the playoffs despite the loss) lose Mario Williams to a minor ACL tear.
Julian Edelman makes four catches for 63 yards, and old friend David Thomas, resigned after a last week's season-ending injury to Alex Smith, has two catches for eight yards and two touchdowns.
Patriots win, 34-20. 15-1
I readily admit that I had a lot of fun playing with this, so if I’ve offended fans of any team out there, TOO BAD!
No, seriously, this was all in fun, done with tongue firmly in cheek. Believe me, I was and am in no way wishing ill on Mario Williams, Maurice Jones-Drew, or any other player in the NFL.
By the way, for those who are wondering? Yes, the Patriots do indeed win the Super Bowl in my scenario.
They beat the Steelers for the AFC Championship (27-16) and win in convincing fashion over the Saints (or the Giants, wouldn't that be poetic?), 44-21, to win the Lombardi again.