August 06, 2005
Are The Patriots Still The Cream Of The Crop?
BY: Kevin Rousseau
The trouble with witnessing the unbelievable and amazing on a regular basis is that after a while, it becomes an expected occurrence. After each time, the uniqueness of the event is lessened and the observer becomes less appreciative of the accomplishment.
At some point, this string of accomplishment is bound to come to an end. Unfortunately, it is only at that moment that a little perspective is perhaps finally achieved.
Patriots fans can say that they appreciate this current-perhaps unprecedented-run of success that the team has enjoyed over the last four years.
But if we are truthful with ourselves and look down inside, we might see just a little bit of fear staring back at us. Fear that it will come crashing down and the rest of the NFL will enjoy every minute of the Patriots’ demise. Fear that games in December will become meaningless. And despair over the thought of having to show up to work on a Monday morning after a grueling Sunday watching the team play awful.
Of course, if you ask ten Patriots fans a question about whether they were scared when Indy marched into Foxboro last January, nine of them would tell you “Of course not, I knew Belichick would come up with something to stop Manning.” I’m here to tell you that most of them are stone-cold lying to you. Deep down, many of us worried that it was the end of the line for this era of the franchise.
Perhaps that is why that victory - and the one the week after against Pittsburgh as well - were so satisfying to us as fans. It put off the day of reckoning for a while and replaced fear with joy.
That said, I don’t believe the day of reckoning will occur for the Patriots any time before January of 2006. Despite the loss of two coordinators, two outstanding linebackers and a few other integral parts, it’s difficult to see who in the AFC improved themselves to the point that they should be considered, on paper anyway, better than the Pats.
Essentially, the Colts and Steelers decided to stand still. They did not add any significant veteran free agents to their rosters and lost a few players of their own like the Colts’ Marcus Pollard and the Steelers’ Plaxico Burress. So the logical question to ask after witnessing their off-seasons is if they weren’t good enough to beat the Patriots with their 2004 rosters, just how the devil are they going to do it with essentially the same players a year later?
The Ravens could give the Patriots a run for their money as they have added some horsepower at wide receiver and cornerback but can you imagine a scenario where Brian Billick out-foxes Bill Belichick? I can’t.
Taking off the rose-colored sunglasses for a minute, the Patriots’ division should prove to be a bit tougher than a year ago. Nick Saban will have the Dolphins playing with a renewed vigor, the Jets have to realize that their window of opportunity to win with Curtis Martin is closing quickly while the Bills defense should keep them in just about all of their games. Add it all up and you have - on paper anyways - the most difficult division in the NFL.
So what does this all say about the fate of the 2005 New England Patriots?
Simply put, it means that until I see otherwise, there is every reason to think that the Pats could will repeat as AFC champs.
And that bold (perhaps vain) statement by yours truly is precisely the reason why the NFL is the best sporting value for your money, gang. Three months from now, I could look like a fool for uttering such garbage. The League never ceases to amaze us with surprises, new heroes and story lines as the warm weather leaves us and the holiday season approaches. Last year, it was the surprising run of the San Diego Chargers, the complete collapse of the Dolphins and the emergence of Carson Palmer and Ben Roethlisberger as stars-in-the-making.
Who will be the breakout stories this year? It’s almost impossible to predict but that won’t stop us from trying.
I think the Bengals and Lions both have good chances to finally roar loud, while Julius Jones could become a dominant back for Bill Parcells in Dallas this year and my gut tells me that things are going to implode in Philly this year.
A lot of scenarios could see the Patriots coming back down to earth. Despite what some of us may have come to believe, Bill Belichick and his staff does not have the ability to pick a name out of a phonebook and insert them at right cornerback after an injury to a starter. And just what will the offensive play-calling look like when it is done by a committee? Or what if the unthinkable happens and Mr. Brady goes down? Then all bets are off.
I suppose I should be scared because sooner or later the football gods will even out the Patriots’ fortunes. But heading into the 2005 season, I just don’t think it’s at this moment.
I’ll leave you with one last question for you to answer:
How do I look wearing these rose-colored sunglasses?
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