By: Russ Goldman
The Patriots were on their bye week, and now they get ready to play the Steelers in Pittsburgh on Sunday.
There‚Äôs certainly plenty to talk about, so here are some thoughts for this week ranging from ¬†my mid-season grades for the Patriots, along with my thoughts on the upcoming game against the Steelers.
Kevin Faulk may be ready to return, but I have mixed feelings on this. (FILE:Icon/SMI)
1. I have mixed feelings on the possible return of Kevin Faulk. The Patriots running back is now back practicing with the Patriots after being on the PUP list. Now the Patriots have a decision to make whether they want to add him to the active roster.
If he still has his legs he is an option, but then you have too many running backs. Unless someone is injured, I don’t think you should activate him. It hurts me to say that considering how much he has given the Patriots in his career.
2. I don’t think the Patriots should even remotely consider signing Terrell Owens. He is not worth the headache, and I don’t think they need to add another wide receiver.
I know there are fans that want to bring in a deep threat at the wide receiver position. I don’t think it is needed as the Patriots are so versatile right now in the passing game. The Patriots have the tight ends to go up the middle of the field, and you still have Welker who has recently shown the ability to go long. Bringing in T.O. makes no sense.
3. The Patriots offense deserves a 9.0 for its mid-season grade.¬†I am judging this on a scale of 1 – 10 with the #10 being the highest. The only reason I am not giving it a perfect score has been the turnovers by Tom Brady. Some of these picks are not his fault, but they do change a game, and this season he has 8 interceptions.
The offense I feel is the best in the NFL as the running game is really starting to compliment the passing game. The Patriots are averaging 124 yards per game which is ranked 11th in the NFL.
The passing game is ranked 1st, and is averaging over 350 yards per game. The overall offense is also ranked #1 in the NFL. Maybe I am being over critical, but the offense does not get a perfect score from me.
4. The Patriots defense deserves a 7.5 for its mid-season grade. Some media members, and fans might think I am ranking this too high, but I think they are average right now.
The yards against are horrible as they are 32nd in the NFL. However, against the run, the Patriots are 8th in the league, and only giving up a little over 101 yards per game.
In points they are 16th in the NFL giving up 22.5 points per game. That statistic alone to me points to average. However, almost every week the defense is taking away a weapon from the opposing offense.
The pass rush is not where it needs to be, but it seems to be coming on. The defensive line has been solid so far. The linebackers have been average as I expected more from this unit. The defensive backs have been sub-par, and need to really improve the rest of the season.
Overall, I would have to stick with my original grade, but the potential is there for the end of the season grade to be higher. I guess we are going to have to wait and see on this unit.
5. The Patriots Special Teams deserves a 8.0 for its mid-season grade. Stephen Gostkowski has been real good so far this season. He is 10-11 so far in field goal attempts. His kickoffs have been pretty good as well. Punter¬†Zoltan Mesko has been real good, and has an average of 45.8 which is real good.
The kickoff and punt coverage has been decent, but the Patriots did give up a very good return to Joe McKnight in the Jets game. The returns on kick-offs and punts have been average at best.
6. The Patriots coaching deserves an 8.5 for a mid-season grade. Now, some might think I am being harsh in this rating, but the reason it is not higher is the approach on defense. With the change to a 4-3, I was hoping to see a more attacking style of defense.
We started to see signs of that style against the Cowboys, but before that it was a typical Patriots “Read And React” defense. For the end of season grade to be higher, I think sticking to a more aggressive style would help.
The offensive game plans, and play calling have been very good. I don’t have many complaints about offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien this season. Overall, the coaching has been solid, but I have seen better coaching jobs from Bill Belichick.
7. Why did the Jets seem to get more credit for their victory against the Chargers than when the Patriots beat San Diego? ¬†I heard a good amount of praise for the way the Jets came back against the Chargers by some in the Boston sports media.
However, when the Patriots played the Chargers, I kept hearing how poorly coached, and stupid the Chargers were which took away from the Patriots victory by the very same media. Both the Patriots and the Jets played the Chargers, and I think the Patriots were more impressive in their victory.
Sorry to say it but the negative spin on the Patriots by some in the Boston sports media continues. Some of it is deserved, but a good amount of it is about the media members themselves and ratings.
8. Patriots fans should be prepared for Spygate to be brought up by the Pittsburgh media and some of the Steelers fans. Unfortunately, this is one area of the country that continues to bring up the scandal.
I think it is time to move on for these people, and just accept that the Steelers were beaten by a better team in the 2001 and 2004 AFC Championship games at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.
In case you hear SpyGate this weekend by the Steelers fans or the Pittsburgh media, feel free to send them my story from January. It is entitled “SpyGate: The Most Overblown Story Of The Decade”.¬†
I spent a great deal of time writing it, and researching to really back up my argument. If you are a Patriots fan and SpyGate still bothers you, I do recommend you reading my article. It is my most read story ever.
9. Do the Patriots need to stretch the field against the Steelers? Against an aggressive 3-4 zone blitz defense, the Patriots have done an excellent job of attacking the Steelers secondary deep in past games.
I feel the Patriots need to attack the Steelers secondary with deep patterns. Whether that is with someone like Chad Ochocinco, or the tight ends running up the middle of the field, I think the Patriots will have great results if they take this approach.
10. The Patriots defense needs to attack Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. In the match-up last season, the Patriots did blitz a great deal, and made life uncomfortable for Roethlisberger. I would take the same approach this week. If Jerod Mayo is healthy, I would send him and Brandon Spikes often to get at the quarterback.
The major concern will be to not allow him to extend the play, but you need to get pressure on him. I think this is the game where the secondary needs help from a real good pass rush. The Steelers receivers are real good, and they will really test the Patriots secondary.
Those are my 10 thoughts for week 8, but feel free to leave some of your thoughts or concerns on this upcoming game in the comment section below.