Patriots Don't Get Help: A Fan's Reflection on an Amazing Season

Ryan BurnsAnalyst IDecember 29, 2008

I can't say that I'm mad.


I slept on this for a whole night.  As insane as that may sound right now, I am not mad that the 11-5 New England Patriots are not advancing to the AFC playoffs, a tournament that has often been their birthright since 2001. 

Why aren't you mad?  You might be asking yourself, and by you, I mean me, this very question.  And the answer is simply this.  Because I refuse to be mad at an 11-5 team, I just don't care.  11-5 should be good enough to get you into the playoffs every single year no matter what. 

However, due to a strong division and a strong conference, the Patriots are on the outside looking in.  And no, I'm not going to go all Hank Steinbrenner on you and say it's not fair that an 8-8 team is having a home playoff game while the Patriots sit home.  The fact of the matter is that it is fair. The Patriots played well but not well enough.

Everyone (except for maybe Donovan McNabb) knows that in order to make the playoffs, you have to win your division, or be one of the top two second place teams.  The Patriots set out to win the division each and every year, as their main goal of the season.  They did not achieve that goal this year, plain and simple.  Unfair?  I would say that it's just unexpected.

It's not like the Patriots didn't have a chance either.  We knew, as far back as three weeks ago, that the Patriots needed help in the form of Colts losses, Ravens losses, Dolphins losses, or Jets losses. The Colts didn't lose, the Ravens didn't lose, and the Dolphins didn't lose. The Patriots can't control any of those things, and those three teams are advancing to the playoffs. 

The Jets however, screwed the Patriots by crapping their pants when it mattered the most, as old man Favre had a vintage Favre game, throwing three picks, one for a TD to a defensive lineman. Mangini is fired, and Favre looks to be done. Mangini getting canned in a 2:45 a.m. e-mail fits in perfectly with the Fredo Corleone motif, the electronic version of getting shot in the middle of Lake Tahoe. 

Hey, I'd much rather be a Patriots fan than a Jets fan today.

All in all this season has been a smashing success, and in many ways, more satisfying than the 2007 season.  We had our all-world QB injured 30 seconds into the season, thrusting Matt Cassel into the spotlight.  I predicted that Cassel would lead us to the playoffs with a 10-6 record, and the team exceeded my expectations.

We survived terrible injury after terrible injury.  Adalius Thomas, Rodney Harrison, Tedy Bruschi all had season ending injuries, ones that could end the career of Harrison and Bruschi.  Sammy Morris, LaMont Jordan, Pierre Woods, the entire secondary basically went down and the Patriots still persevered.

So what's next?  Clearly the Patriots need to assess this Brady rehab report and make a decision in regard to holding on to Matt Cassel (franchise him, please). They need to pick up some defensive backs and a linebacker or two, increasing the depth of the defense when the injury bug inevitably comes next season.

Are you depressed, Patriots fans? Relax. This is a playoff team that had the misfortune of playing in a tough AFC East division. The coaching staff from top to bottom were fantastic, and I can't say enough about Matt Cassel, except thank you. 

So Patriots fans, I hope you act like football fans and watch the next few weeks, where some great games will unfold.

It could be worse, you could be Eric Mangini. Or Brett Favre