February 06, 2009
Suddenly, the Team of the Decade Debate Is On
BY: Kevin Rousseau
Perhaps the same thought occurred to you.
As Santonio Holmes made the catch of the decade in Super Bowl XLIII, I realized that the race for that title of "Team of the Decade" is now on as well. Forget the Colts, the real competition for the Patriots as the last season of the decade begins this September is the Pittsburgh Steelers.
So with this new reality upon us, I commissioned the Research Department here at Patsfans.com (read: yours truly pouring through websites and the NFL Fact Book) to research the performances of both teams since 2000. Now I must warn you ahead of time that you will not be confusing this with the stuff you could get over at the stellar coldhardfootballfacts.com. As you know, there are lies, damn lies and then there are statistics. But let's give it the ole' college try as we sit and dream of new 1963 throwback jerseys.
Leading off, the Patriots have three Super Bowl wins compared to the Steelers two this decade. To make the debate palatable, the Steelers would have to repeat this coming season. If they do so, Super Bowl wins would be a wash between the teams. A slight tiebreaker would go to the Patriots due to their (embarrassing) participation in Super Bowl XLII.
In the nine seasons so far this decade, the Patriots have gone 102-42 and Pittsburgh has gone 95-49 during the regular season. Barring a 2009 Patriots collapse, New England will win this race at the end of this upcoming season. Head-to-head during the regular season, the Patriots enjoy a 3-2 lead which will carry as the teams will not face each other in the 2009 season due to the Patriots finishing in second place in the AFC East and the Steelers winning the AFC North last season.
As for the playoffs, the Patriots have gone an amazing 14-3 during this decade while the Steelers have gone a very respectable 8-4. The Patriots have won both head-to-head matchups in the 2001 and 2004 AFC Championship Games. Each team has made the playoffs six out of nine seasons.
The bottom line after this lengthy research conducted on an otherwise mundane Wednesday night in February after the kids went to bed is this: The 2009 season will have a great storyline about the crown of Team of the Decade being fought over between New England and Pittsburgh.
Of course, in the coming weeks a few actions by these teams will have a significant role in deciding this debate. The biggest question mark will be just what happens to Matt Cassel this offseason. Patriots fans are dreaming of a scenario that sees Tom Brady return to health and at least a first round pick being flipped by a team for Cassel.
For sure, the Patriots have a variety of needs despite the relatively successful 2008 campaign. If you're honest with yourself, as you watched the Super Bowl it occurred to you that the Patriots aren't as fast and physical as the Steelers defense. To get past the Steelers and get back to the Super Bowl, the Patriots will have to continue to get better on both on defense. Working on the assumption that the Patriots will have two first round draft picks, an outside linebacker and a cornerback that can immediately be plugged into the starting eleven would go a long way to alleviating this anxiety. With the two second round picks (thanks to the Chargers), how about a new tight end and a running back to hedge against just which Laurence Maroney will show up next season?
From all indications, the Patriots will have some cap room to fool around with providing that they eventually can get Cassel off the books. Priority one should be signing nose tackle Vince Wilfork to a contract extension. Besides Tom Brady, he is the one player whose loss would devastate the team. Without Wilfork clogging up the middle, the Patriots defense wouldn't be able to stop Richard Simmons from running up the gut.
Of course, following the Patriots has taught us to expect the unexpected. Just who had Floyd Reese in the Scott Pioli replacement candidate pool? Coming off one of the most exciting seasons one could hope for, this offseason for the Patriots promises to be equally intriguing.
As 2009 gets underway, Patriots fans everywhere hope the Team of the Decade debate does not get any more intriguing.
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