2008 has been an incredibly rough year for fans of the New England Patriots. First, the Spygate allegations came out right before the Super Bowl calling into question the Pats first Super Bowl win over the Rams. Then, we lose our perfect season in the Super Bowl by 3 points to a team from New York. And finally two weeks ago, Tom Brady's leg snapped like a twig, seemingly ending our season.
The disappointment I felt after Brady got hurt was immense. I was so pumped up for this season, a chance to erase the memories of the Super Bowl and prove to the rest of the league that we still meant business and were not chokers. When Brady went down, I immediately envisioned an embarrassing 0-16 season and the biggest win dropoff in NFL history. I prayed that the Pats would acquire Daunte Culpepper or some other veteran who could step in and lead them to at least a respectable record.
But after watching Matt Cassel and the Pats eke out a 19-10 victory over the Jets on Sunday, I realized a few things. First, the conclusions that everyone was jumping to were exactly the same conclusions that we had jumped to after Drew Bledsoe was injured in 2001. And we all know how that turned out. Second, this was a traditional Pats win. People forget, but in the past we didn't win games 35-10, we won 17-13 and ugly. Bill Belichick and the rest of the Pats know how to win games like that. Third, this season has the potential to be the most fun since 2001. We aren't the hated juggernaut this year. We aren't expected to win anything. We can realistically play the "Nobody believes in us" card and if we do win it will be so much more satisfying. With these realizations, my depression went away and I actually became excited at the prospect of watching Matt Cassel lead the New England Patriots this year.
I now consider myself a Cassel believer. For some strange reason I have a feeling that he can lead us to the playoffs, and maybe just maybe we can win this year. After all, our schedule is extremely easy, and the AFC so far appears to have only one major roadblock, the Pittsburgh Steelers. Plus, the Giants basically won the Super Bowl last year because they were incredibly motivated by being written off. Maybe I'm crazy. Maybe I'm just drinking the Kool-Aid. Maybe I'm a homer. But I believe.
The way I see it, every championship is improbable in some way. Who would think that the Giants could topple the mighty Pats? Who thought that the Colts could rally from a 21-3 halftime deficit to beat the Patriots and get to the Super Bowl? Who thought that the Steelers could win that wild game in Indianapolis and win the Super Bowl with a rookie quarterback? Every great team has to come back from adversity and maybe this is ours.
I realize that the Patriots have an uphill struggle. They will have to contend with a red-hot Bills team, an always dangerous Colts squad, and the powerhouse Steelers. And even if they make the Super Bowl, they will have to face the Packers or Cowboys probably. Plus, they have not looked like a dominating squad against the Chiefs or Jets. A couple more key injuries could do them in. But is it really so difficult to imagine the Pats getting hot at the end of the year, winning a wild card and sweeping the playoffs? Is it inconceivable to picture Matt Cassel hoisting the Lombardi Trophy over his head after hitting Moss in the end zone for a winning touchdown? Not for me.