Triple-Decker Sandwich Hell Awaits Patriots

Donna CavanaghCorrespondent INovember 5, 2009

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 25:  Tom Brady (#12) of the New England Patriots discusses tactics with his team mates during the NFL International Series match between New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Wembley Stadium on October 25, 2009 in London, England. This is the third occasion where a regular season NFL match has been played in London.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Julian Finney/Getty Images

An NFL team plays a sandwich schedule when they play a challenging game, and "easy win" game and another challenging game. The easy game is sandwiched in the middle and often not considered something to worry about. However, these games can result in upsets when the better team eases up its play performance. 

This year, the Patriots have taken the idea of the sandwich game to a new level. In fact, we might say the Patriots are working on a triple-decker threat—but instead of the usual bread and meat sandwich, they will be facing three slices of sandpaper surrounding two layers of ground glass. Doesn’t this sound appetizing?

Over the next five games, the Patriots have to play their two toughest divisional opponents, and mixed in between are the only two currently unbeaten teams left in the NFL.

While the Jets are just .500 with at 4-4 record and the Dolphins are still below .500 at 3-4, these are the two teams with the most to gain if the Patriots falter in this stretch. The gauntlet starts with the Patriots hosting the Dolphins this weekend. They then travel to the 7-0 Colts. followed by a return trip home to New England to meet the Jets.

For week four, the Patriots get an extra day to prepare for the currently unbeaten Saints. They then get one less day to prepare for their trip in week five to Miami. For these five games, the Patriots’ opponents have a combined 24-12 record.

If you are thinking the Dolphins are not quite like the team of 2008, remember they played the Colts tough and possessed the ball for about three-quarters of the game. They also had a big early lead on the Saints that they failed to hold.

The good news for the Patriots is that after these five weeks, they finish with four teams that have a combined record of just 14-16.

We point this out to you as we post this week’s version of PossessionPoints schedule analysis chart that we debuted in the article “NFL 2009 Win – Loss Records: A Look At The Schedule Excuse

There are now five teams with records over .500 that have played opposition with combined records over .500, while there are still only four teams with records under .500 who have played teams with combined records under .500.

There are now just two unbeaten teams: the Saints and Colts. The Saints have played the tougher competition based on their win-loss records. The Saints’ opponents so far have a combined .481 record, while the Colts' past opponents have just a.340 winning percentage.

Going forward, this flips, as the Colts’ future opposition currently has a combined .537 winning percentage while the Saints’ future opponents only have a .359 winning percentage. This is why when you hear speculation about a possible 16-0 team this season, the talk usually goes to the Saints.

Ironically, the last team to go 16-0, the Patriots, appear to be the most likely to derail the Saints from that goal this year. For the Saints, they may be better off if the Patriots or some other team does knock them from the ranks of the unbeaten before the season ends. As you all probably recall, the Patriots' unbeaten season did not exactly have a storybook ending for them.