New England Patriots: Why the Patriots Will Win the AFC East
Suddenly, New England’s 2011 season outlook went from bleak to pretty rosy after just one win. And following a sweep of the Jets to take sole possession of first place in the AFC East, it looks like the Patriots are poised to maintain their stranglehold on the division they’ve owned for the past decade.
Some experts will probably say it’s too early to hand the Patriots another AFC East crown. I say it’s not and here are five reasons why.
The Remaining Schedule Shapes Up Nicely
Just a few weeks ago, New England Patriots' fans were wondering how their team was going to survive a brutal three-game stretch that saw them play the likes of the Steelers, Giants and Jets. Now, it appears that—at least on paper—New England has survived the rough waters of their schedule.
From this point forward, the Patriots statistically have the league’s easiest remaining schedule, a point mentioned by Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth during the Sunday Night Football telecast.
At first glance, it’s not unrealistic to think New England could run the table the rest of the way. For starters, the Chiefs have fallen off the wagon again with consecutive losses to the likes of the Dolphins and Broncos (something tells me Tom Brady will complete more than two passes against Kansas City).
From there, who will really challenge New England? The Dream Team Eagles continue to look like a nightmare. The Broncos have a JV quarterback in Tim Tebow. The Colts are winless. The Redskins and Dolphins are mediocre at best, and the Bills are plummeting.
As long as the Patriots continue to take it one game at a time (which they must, with such a depleted defense), they should be able to pile up the wins on their way to the playoffs.
Tom Brady Is Back
Tom Terrific showed a national television audience why he’s not ready to relinquish his title as the game’s best quarterback just yet. For the second time this year, Brady threw for over 300 yards against New York’s highly regarded secondary.
With the toughest opposing defense (New York) now in the rear view mirror, expect Brady to carve up the competition down the stretch. The Eagles' secondary has struggled keeping a lead all season. Brady already went off for 500 yards against Miami once this year.
And don’t expect him to toss another four interceptions when the Pats face the slumping Bills in the regular season finale. The Patriots go as Tom Brady goes, and right now, Brady’s game is going.
Bill Belichick's Demise Is Premature
With New England’s defense ranking as one of the worst in the NFL, many fans have been quick to declare that Bill Belichick is no longer a defensive genius. Those declarations may have been a bit premature.
The way the defense played against the Jets was Vintage Belichick. Even with practice squad players like Sterling Moore, Jeff Tarpinian, Ross Ventrone and Antwaun Molden seeing major playing time on defense, Belichick was still able to rally the troops and keep Mark Sanchez and the Jets’ offense in check.
The defense will need to get healthier if they have any hope of succeeding in the postseason. Nevertheless, considering how inspiring New England’s M.A.S.H. unit played against New York, it’s safe to say that Belichick didn’t lose his defensive prowess overnight.
The Pass-Rush Is Emerging
Did Andre Carter and Mark Anderson put on a show in the Meadowlands against the Jets or what? New England’s defensive ends made life a living hell for Jets' quarterback Mark Sanchez.
They combined for five sacks in victory and were the biggest reason why the Patriots had their best game of the season from a pass-rushing standpoint. After missing on linemen Albert Haynesworth and Shaun Ellis, it appears that the Patriots have caught lightning in a bottle with Carter and Anderson.
If the duo can play anywhere near the incredible level they did against Gang Green, it will alleviate some pressure off of an ailing Patriots' secondary, while simultaneously keeping the pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
Chad Ochocinco Is Poised to Break out
Just when I was ready to abandon the Chad Ochocinco experiment, he goes out there and has—by far—his best performance in a Patriots' uniform. Although Ochocinco only had just two catches in New England’s 37-16 win over the Jets, they showed me that he just may be ready to become a big part of the offense.
His first reception came after he undressed Jets' cornerback Antonio Cromartie on a beautifully executed out route, a play that drew thumbs up from quarterback Tom Brady. And on a big 50-yard reception, he caught a wide-open pass down the sideline and raced towards the middle of the field to rack up several yards after the catch.
Cris Collinsworth mentioned during the Pats-Jets telecast that Ochocinco looked great in the Thursday practice prior to the game. Maybe, just maybe, these are indications that Ochocinco is ready to become another viable weapon in Tom Brady’s passing arsenal.