The song lyric comes to me, "How you like me now”, when I think of the New England Patriots season so far this year. At the start of the season many projections were that this would be a nine-win team at best.
Not even a contender for the AFC East crown.
Hey, “How you like me now”; Nine wins and counting?
This is the team in the middle of a rebuild. The Patriots have been cleaning house the past couple of years and we saw many of our favorite players shipped off to other teams.
Going into this season, the Patriots made sure it signed a couple of cornerstones to build upon with Tom Brady and Vince Wilfork and then promptly put all other position players on notice. The Patriots don’t do divas and neither do they wait for holdouts.
Confounding everyone in the middle of the season, they shed themselves of Randy Moss, a bonafide wide receiver threat. In a perplexing move, as a replacement they bring back an aging receiver, Deion Branch that never had anymore success than where he originally started at. Apparently, a Woodhead and a Branch at least equals a Moss.
So far it’s been a season of questions. Who are these Patriots? You don’t like their defense? So what? They’ll play more offense. Offense isn’t clicking? So what? They make it up on special teams. Playing a tough opponent, a come from behind kind of opposing team? So what? The defense finds a wrinkle and squashes a come back.
Which of Monday's night 9-2 AFC team will advance to the Super Bowl?
So I say, “How you like me now.”
This “new” look Patriots team is turning out to be more than just alright. It’s a young team and they take a few too many dings for my liking, but they do continue to progress and get better with every outing.
This team had an early season loss to the New York Jets and I heard a collective, “Uh oh” from NFL fans of every persuasion. Then there was another befuddling loss to, of all teams, the Cleveland Browns. And then, there’s another “gasp” from the collective NFL crowd.
When we bring things up to date, we now have the advantage of looking at the Patriots body of work this season. We will find a top-rated offense with both a middling defense and special teams group.
So how does that equate to a 9–2 record at this point? I believe it comes down to simple intangibles, youthful enthusiasm, superb leadership and damn good coaching.
This week it will be a Monday night game and the Patriots get a replay with a divisional foe, coincidentally, one of the only teams that pulled off a win against them, the New York Jets. The “hard knocks” stars make the trip up to the infamous Gillette Stadium, aka “The Razor”. The Jets will try to keep the Patriots from achieving another NFL record, consecutive home field regular season wins which the Pats have tied and now stands at 25.
The Jets head coach Rex Ryan will bray loud and often that the Patriots are the same team that they beat earlier in the season. A modified version of “they are who we thought they were.”
True Rex, it is the same team…but different.
When this Monday night game is over, I won’t ask the Jets team or their fans to kiss the Patriots Super Bowl rings. But, I will ask them…
“How you like me now?”