....talk about transitioning on the fly. If successful, it will prove that the Pats have made it an art form. Ah but "there's the rub", will it be successful. 1. 44 pages on Deion Branch. That's has GOT to be a record. My initial reaction when I first heard of the trade was Shakespearean, "much ado about nothing". In fact I was pretty much neutral. I guess it was a logical move, but certainly not an impact one We get a veteran who knows the "system", who can be a vet presence for our young pups, and could even catch a few passes (20-30 over the rest of the season). I can let bygones be bygones. When I realized we gave up a 4th for him, I wasn't happy. I would have thought a 6th was high, given his situation in Seattle, especially when you look back on what it cost to pick up better WRs like Boldin, Holmes and Marshall, the price seemed quite high. Finally I did want I usually do when it comes to the Pats....I rationalized. After all, if any team in the league could "throw away" a 4th round pick its the Pats. So why not? Branch has some value, and though the cost was high (IMHO) we have the "currency" to spend. OTOH, I have reasonable expectations for Branch. Even in his Prime, he was NEVER a deep threat, nor much of one in the red zone....and he isn't in his prime any longer. He isn't a YAC threat, and is isn't going to out fight a DB for a ball. He was NEVER a physical receiver. All we should expect is that he WILL BE exactly where Brady expects him to be. Whether he can separate from defender on a regular basis is another story. IMHO Branch can be covered one on one. Man coverage was often effective when he was here the last time, why should it be any different now. He will be most effective vs Zone defenses 2. Here's the real issue, IMHO. Size DOES matter. There has been a lot of talk about going back to the "pre-2007 offense" of short to medium precise routes. That the league has 'caught up' with the 2007 offense. That there needs to be a change back to Brady throwing to "whoever is open". Well I'm not so sure we ever left the old offense, we just added better pieces. But that's another story. What I am concerned about is that the league has evolved since the "Pre-2007 offense, and one of those evolutions has been to the use of the "big WR". He's the guy that doesn't need to "get open", or "create separation". He's the guy who catches the ball merely because he has 6-8" on the defender. He's the guy who is a bear to bring down after a catch because he's 6'4' 230'lbs being attacked by 5'10 180lb guys. Right now our receiver corps consists of a bunch of 5'10 guys and rookie Aaron Hernandez, and until we prove that we are willing to send Crumpler and Gronk deep in the seem, that is all we have. Until then I expect to see a lot of man coverage (or tight 4-5 under zones) daring us to prove we have a vertical threat. Finally the other factor in having such a small WR corp, is that it hurts the running game. All the really good running games in the league have excellent WR blockers...and our best WR blockers are Welker and Edelman 3. Speaking of our draft situation and the loss of that 4th round pick. Here are a few things to consider. There comes a point in any rebuilding era when I think you CAN have too many picks. By the end of the draft next April, the Pats will have had over 35 picks over the last 3 drafts, and quite frankly you just can't keep all those players. With, at this point, 6 picks in the first 100 players, the Pats look primed to add another 7 or 8 new bodies next season, on an already, VERY young team Add to that the fact that next off season looks to have the best FA class in a decade, roster spots are going to be at a premium. So sure, would I have rather gotten Deion for a 6th. . But do I really think it matters in the long run. No. Only the nitpickers will sh!t nickels over this. 4. Speaking of the Draft...again. While our hopes of a top 10 pick from the Raiders seems to be fading. Its becoming very apparent that our 2nd from Carolina is very likely to be in the top 3 of that round, and most draftniks will tell that there is very little difference in the talent difference from a pick at #20 from a pick at $35. So as Bill Murray might say. "....well at least we got that going for us" WHAT!!!! Do you expect me to quote Shakespeare EVERY TIME. 5. With the Jets winning, of course, beating the Ravens is critical to keep up. However in my mind it isn't "necessary". The Ravens are one of the top 3 teams in the league, and if we are just competitive with them and lose a close game, then I will be comfortable that we are on the right track. Remember this is a team that is not only transitioning on the fly with their defensive personnel. They are transitioning on the fly with their offensive philosophy. If we prove we can play physically with the best team in the league on Sunday, then IMHO, I'd be OK if the we didn't get the breaks and lost the game. I won't be wringing my hands and calling for heads to roll (as will be the case of the "hysterical what have you done lately media"...and some fans) Nor do I see this game as some kind of litmus test of the Moss trade. WAY too early for that. This is just one game, EARLY in the season, for a team that, if BB is correct, is built to blossom around Thanksgiving.....not against the league iron in early October. All that being said, a win on Sunday would be doubly sweet 6. How can we as fans start to determine if the transition is going as planned. Here are a few things to look for over the next 4-6 weeks which I will call the "birthing process". a. Can we win a game with a final drive at the end of a game. I mean really, when was the last time THAT happened. What was a hallmark of the pre 2007 teams, has become a rarity in our so called offensive juggernaut era. Now it seems the idea is to go out to an early lead, and hold on for dear life. Lets see Brady go back to what made him a household name. b. Does the D continue to improve. Not all at once, but do we see more 3rd down stops than the week before. Do we see more FGs than TDs. Do we see stops after Turn overs? Again not all at once, but on a weekly basis. Patience is the operative word here, and patience is easier to give when you see some positive improvement. c. Does the offense still move the ball with regularity. I doubt we score as much, but do we move the ball, and keep time of possession in our favor. d. Are we running the ball effectively. And when I say that I mean running the ball like we did in the glory years. That means 80-120s ypg on 25+ carries and making most of the 3rd and short and GL runs. No highlights, no fantasy points, just move the chains and eat the clock running game. 7.Right before our eyes our team is morphing back to the 2001, 2003 season. Few stars, but hopefully a team where the sum is greater than the individual parts. We do have the most important position covered, with an impact QB, but the rest is a work in progress. I would remind people that in 2001 the Pats were 5-5 as they entered the final third of the season....coming off a loss at home to what many thought WAS the best team in the league THAT season. When the Pats play their 11th game THIS season, any record above that 5-5 is gravy IMHO. Personally I'm thinking 7-3, but that's just me. If its less than that, and I'm seeing that defensive improvement, then I'm OK. 8. IMHO this team is being built to win a superbowl in 2012, just like I thought 2003 was the target then. However that doesn't mean that with a little luck and good team play, there can't be a run to precede the target date, and the next 2 years will give us the opportunity to have that happen. In the meantime, baring catastrophic injuries, I'm comfortable we are still going to have double digit wins, and not suffer the severe dips that even teams like the Ravens and Steelers did. 9. I believe Brady when he says nothing happened between him and Moss. And if you are a conspiracy buff, if anything Casserly was set up to make a fool of himself. Clearly there is little mutual respect between Casserly and BB.. I also believe him on whether he was 'consulted' on the Moss deal. I believe him in that I don't think he had anything thing to do with decision making process, however I would be shocked if the FO didn't let him know what they were planning and to take his "temperature" about it. That would make no sense. 10. Bottom line here is that we are in the midst of a very interesting season....and I kind of like flying under the radar....for the time being.