Just thought before the game starts I would get my thoughts on the game out there. As I was thinking about this game it flashed through my mind how the Pats Ravens game was in my opinion decided mainly by IMO an injury to Aqib Talib. I certainly hope this is no one gets hurt in this game but it seems quite possible that an injury to a key player in this game could happen.
Justin Smith playing with really one arm already makes this more of an even match than it would be if he were 100%. I still am not that impressed with the Ravens defense even though their defense is probably the healthiest it as been since the start of the season. Given the reputation of these two defenses it would seem both teams would score in the twenties. This would be supported by how both teams rely heavily on the run. However, I dont see that happening. I believe the Niner team speed in Crabtree, Kaepernick and Vernon Davis will explode in the second half as the Ravens adreneline gets back to normal and their older legs get slower. Gore is a bruiser who rarely fumbles and might get some extra motivation from Ray Rice getting more respect going into this game than he is. So if his game today is the same as it has been thats very bad for the Ravens. Similarly, if Kaepernick continues to make quality decisions on the fly as he has so far, the Niners should simply score more points than the Ravens.
On the other units matchup, my brother pointed out to me that he believes the biggest difference with two teams is that the Niners have more team speed on defense. He could well be right about this. The Ravens should attack the Niners secondary early and often. The Niners pass rush has not been getting to the QB like they were when Justin Smith got hurt. They should try to take advantage of the Niners weakness on pass defense as early as possible by using the pass to set up the run. However, deep passes away from the great speedy LB’s on the Niners is the way to go here. Flacco should have a good game but his defense is probably going to make it too much of an uphill battle for the Ravens to win it.
If the Niners dont lose the turnover battle they will win this game. I like both teams scoring in the 30‘s with a frenzied 4Q finish.
There are a lot of Pats fans worried about the AFC Conference Grudge Match with the Ray Lewis Good Bye Tour stopping over in Foxborough this Sunday. It’s probably not necessary for Pats fans to sweat this one out too much. Of course anything can happen just like Nate Silver predicted Romney had a 10% of beating Obama in November but the 90% odds won out. The Ravens chances might be more in the 20-25% range in my humble opinion but the Pats should also win out. Two issues stick out that make this a Patriots win. First is that a Pats led Tom Brady team is only vulnerable to losing if his opponent can put on a quality 4 man rush. That was true when he didn’t have a running game. Now with a very good run game this becomes even more the case. The other issue is that the Ravens defense is as of this game just a slightly above average defense. Ray Ray has become quite the liability in pass coverage and that is probably why he is retiring. Their overall defense is just not one to be feared as of this moment in time. Even though Ngata is playing well and maybe is their best defender, there is serious doubts they can consistently put major heat on Brady using only 4 rushers. They stat they were tossing around last Sunday was this year Brady was rushed with 5 or more defenders on 170 plays. During those plays he threw 20 TD’s and no INT’s. If the Ravens can bring some quality heat with 4 this Sunday then there will be a real contest. If not Tom Terrific is slicing and dicing his way to another playoff victory.
A friend of mine is worried about how Flacco did his own slicing and dicing against the Pats this year, leading his team to victory. However, that was against a much different Pats defense. Pre-Aquib Talib, the Patriots defense was totally vulnerable to any and all cover 2 beaters. Those spots are in the deep middle and the medium to deep sidelines. In that game the Raven receivers were running to those spots like all day long and ripping the porous Pats secondary to shreds.
Just like I predicted when Talib became part of the mix the defense the Pats use of the cover 2 went bye bye. This change transformed them into a good NFL defense. The secondary went from an F grade to about a C- grade. You can’t beat good teams with with an F secondary even with Tom Brady piling on the points. However the Pats can beat the Ravens with an average secondary because the Ravens overall defense is just slightly above average at best. That aint going to get the job done against Tom Brady and his boys.
Pats fans enjoy this Sunday because there is a very good chance the Pats will next face a team with a damn good 4 man rush from San Francisco. A Niners – Patriots SB matchup could prove to be a very entertaining Super Bowl for everyone to enjoy along with their Super Bowl parties.
Talib breaks up a pass
Pats fans should be rejoicing in the street over the Patriots trading for Aqib Talib. Not so much because Talib is the perfect guy for this team but because his skill set allows a clever defensive coach like Belichick to reach into his extensive bag of tricks. Bill knows the cornerbacks he started the season with are poor in man to man coverage. He tried to hide their deficiencies by using the cover 2 shell on passing downs. The problem with that plan has been its an easy defense for a QB to recognize. Even a relatively inexperienced QB’s can not only see it but easily audible to their favorite cover 2 beater. These cover 2 beaters need a little time to develop because they are medium to deep passes in the middle and off the sidelines. If a defense can get a good pass rush up the middle than the QB typically doesn’t have the time to make these throws. Unfortunately, for the Pats even though their pass rush has improved they have not gotten enough consistent push up the middle to stop the cover 2 beaters.
However, now Belichick is freed from the shackles of using the cover 2 as his primary method to hide the weaknesses in his secondary. With Talib, he has a big fast fluid physical corner to stick on the offense’s best wideout. This is a great starting point for a coach who says his defensive philosophy is to start with stopping an offensive’s best option then go from there. Given the pass happy times we live in, Bill has been living in his version of coaching hell until he acquired Talib. Talib buys Bill time to fix his cornerback problems in the offseason. That fix may or may not include keeping Talib but at least Aqib’s presence reduces the liklihood of wasting a precious Tom Brady season as Tom’s career is winding down. Its hard to imagine this Pats team winning a Super Bowl with the secondary play we have seen since the season began.
This trade should also help get the most out of Devin McCourty. McCourty looks like he can be an exceptional safety as opposed to an inconsistent cornerback. With a talented experienced corner like Talib on one side the Pats can probably get away with plugging in a younger guy like Dennard who has the skills to be good in coverage but is going to make mistakes because of his youth. The last piece of this new secondary lineup should be Steve Gregory as the other safety. Gregory is a good fit with these guys because he is smart and experienced.
It will be fascinating to watch what Belichick will do with his defense now that he has a new toy to play with. The biggest thing for Bill will be that he can be much less predictable in passing downs. Chess season has now begun for master chess player Belichick. It’s your move Bill.
Belichick and Matt Patricia trying to fix things
The Patriots took it on the chin in the tough loss to the Seahawks. The main post mortem talking point has rightfully been the Pats secondary. This issue needs to be really looked at very closely. Of course the DB’s need to do basic things better like when they see the eyes of the wideout tracking the ball they need to turn around to the ball. If they dont do this they will either get a flag if there is any contact or miss a chance for an INT. However, the coaches need to reassess as well.
The Pats are playing lots of cover 2. Before dumping all the defensive lapses on the laps of the secondary, a course in cover 101 need to be taken. First off the cover 2 is a bend but not break defense meaning it typically gives up yards but not points and not big plays. However, the Pats big problem is giving up big plays on defense especially late in the game. My initial guess as to why this is happening is that the Pats are trying to cover up the weaknesses of their cornerbacks but in doing so are exposing the weaknesses of their safeties. Cover 2 safeties need to cover a fair amount of ground, be sure handed tacklers and sell out to stop big plays. Can these safeties do all that? Even more importantly for the cover 2 to be effective its needs a pass rushing defensive tackle who can collapse the middle to force the QB into where the DE’s are rushing. It is imperative for a cover 2 defense to pressure the QB with 4 pass rushers. If you can’t do that then a team should not use it as a staple of their defense. A big reason why the secondary played so poorly against the Seahawks was that Russell Martin scrambled his butt off eluding many almost sacks. Its kind of amazing when you put this all together. The Patriots lost by one point in spite of the DB’s playing poor technique and having to cover receivers for extended amounts of time on many plays.
It appears there is a disconnect between what the defensive players can do well and what they are being asked to do. Chandler Jones has added a lot to a previously poor pass rush. However the Pats do not appear to have a three technique DT who can consistently rush pressure the QB up the middle. Belichick’s apparent plan to mask his corners deficiencies were gashed by a mobile QB. It appears he needs another plan.
Gronk celebrating a TD.
This should be an entertaining game with the Pats unstoppable force offense going against the un movable object defense of the Seahawks. New England’s offense should dictate who will win this game in this passing friendly NFL. The key to the Pats winning is to use the pass to set up the run. Tom Brady and his boys have shown that they are most comfortable in the spread offense. When their offense is spreading out the field horizontally and Brady is using his brain and arm to find the soft spots then Patriots start feeling nice and comfy cozy out there even in the very loud confines like Seattle’s home field. Conversely, the Pats offense has struggled when they emphasize running the rock early. Once the defense starts playing the pass first then the lanes open up big time for the Pats run game to shine. However, it should come as no surprise that Welker and Gronk will be doing most of the damage against the Seahawks in the passing game.
The Pats should be able also to capitalize on Brandon Lloyd’s speed versus a big secondary that probably can’t go stride for stride too often with Lloyd. I can see Brady taking some shots deep early to Lloyd, Gronk and Branch. The Seahawks have a fast and physical defense. If Brady gets into a lot of third and longs that plays right into Seattle’s hands. The Patriots oline is going to earn their pay today keeping Tom from harms way. The Pats approach should be your basic strike early and often with points then ram the ball down their throats in the second half.
The Seahawks defense is not to be underestimated. They cover a lot of ground and will put the hurt on you especially their big secondary who get a running start at it. Their head coach Pete Carroll is good at getting his guys charged up with his rah rah college style. This should result in the defense making some big plays early in the game probably on third down and keeping the score relatively close. However, once their adrenalin calms down by the second half then the superior team will take control of the game.
If the talented rookie Russell Wilson struggles early don’t be surprised to see Matt Flynn take over at QB. Russell outplayed Flynn in the pre-season but it seems reasonable to assume his rookie mistakes won’t be tolerated to a great degree in a big game with their defense playing so well. The Seahawks will be trying to keep the ball out of Brady’s hands by giving the ball often to the human bowling ball Marshawn Lynch. This guy is averaging 4.5 yards per carry so the Patriots front seven are going to have the hands full today. I can see Seattle running a lot on the edges to avoid Wilfork so the linebackers and the quick Chandler Jones need to keep to a minimum the times Lynch gets a head of steam going.
Riddley has to prioritize hanging onto the rock over getting a few extra yards or the Pats could get into trouble. Turnovers in a loud venue like Seattle will pump a lot of energy into the Seahawks. The Pats will win this game by a good 3-4 point margin maybe 6. Its probably going to be a game with a lot field goals. I really don’t put much stock in guessing the final score as I think if you get it right its mainly luck. With that said, lets go with Patriots 23 Seahawks 19.
‘Tom Brady in action
The first four games of this season have shown that when Tom Brady has his two security blankets the Pats spread offense is the high powered machine the NFL has come to expect. When their presence is not around, the offense shifts from extraordinary to ordinary or worse. These security blankets are an oline that gives him the time he is accustomed to having in pass plays and Wes Welker. The spread offense that Brady has run over the past few years keeps producing lots of points as long as it has these two elements as part of its foundation. Of course the offense still needs other receiving threats to complete the package. However whether its Randy Moss, Deion Branch or Gronk is not as important as having a stout oline and Welker being there and making the play when Brady needs him to. Welker’s key drop near the end of the Super Bowl in Indianapolis might not have been a drop if Brady had a split second more to make a better throw to him.
This is not to undervalue the big time talents of Gronk, Hernandez, Moss and other Patriot receivers. Brandon Lloyd can also become an important part of this offense. However, when his offense is on the edge of failing, the chemistry between Brady and Welker just seems to put Brady and his aging body in a comfort zone no other option seems to be able to do. This season the Pats offense seemed to stall when it was determined to establish the run first. However, when it used the pass to set up the run, it was back to being well oiled machine the everyone expected it to be. When Welker played a key role in establishing the pass first, their offense appeared to be its most efficient.
This not to dismiss how important the addition of an impressive running game is this season. Riddley could become a real game changer for this team. However, if I had my pick of whether last year’s team could have had this year’s dynamic running game or this year’s stouter defense, I would choose defense. Looking at the list of players that left the Patriots because of free agency the one player I would have kept on the Pats is Asante Samuel. Wilfork has been their only consistent Pro Bowl quality player both in level of play and staying healthy. A top notch corner like Samuel in this pass happy era would have given the defense the dynamic element it has been lacking of late. I just hope for the Patriots and their fans sake Wes Welker doesn’t get added to the list of free agents the Patriots should have kept.
If their pass protection stays stout and Welker is an important part of their offense they should certainly win this Sunday’s game against the Broncos and be a very dangerous team in the playoffs.
Are the New England Patriots preparing for life after Wes Welker? It appears that Belichik is. It also appears his team mainly the offense is not ready for life after Welker. Many in the Boston media are saying its stupid to imagine that they are paying Welker 9MM but don’t plan to use him much. All in the Boston media are confused by what the hell is going on with how the Pats are using one of the very best wide receivers in the NFL. Well, arrogance can often lead to stupid behavior just think about our politicians. Belichik and his team have often been praised for the way they have handled players that can cash in on free agency. Here is a list of players who were starters and even stars for the Pats that Belichik either traded or let go once they became available for free agency: Adalius Thomas, Richard Seymour, Matt Cassel, Rodney Harrison, Jabbar Gaffney, Asante Samuel, Deion Branch, Ty Law and Adam Viniateri. Three of the nine he traded for first round picks, all of them were replaced with much cheaper players.
This off season was filled with talk about how the Pats are becoming the number one NFL team to commit to the two tight end offense. Is it such a leap to imagine the high degree of their commitment to the tight end scheme was in part to avoid paying the 31 year old Welker the big time money that comes with being a much sought after free agent? It is entirely possible their plan is to see how well this Welker lite offense flies before letting him go. The justification to paying him 9MM this year but using him less is if this plan does not work than featuring him once again is their fall back plan. Further justification would be if the plan does work use him enough to show he still has gas in the tank then trade him for a nice low first round pick given the value top flight wideouts have in this pass happy NFL. This strategy surrounding Welker is quite consistent with their pattern with free agents.
There is one little kink in their plan that an arrogant head coach might easily overlook. Treating Welker in this callous fashion can sabotage team morale. Low team morale means players play below their talent level. Low morale is especially a problem if the guy biggest hit with the blues is their most important player. Emotions are not something you can turn on and off with a button. Tom Brady is the one with the biggest responsibility to make this transition work. It is most inconvenient for Belichik and his possible replace Welker plan that Tom Brady loves Wes Welker like a brother. Further complicating this possible plan is the injury to Aaron Hernandez. Once Hernandez went down in the Cardinal game Welker was back in the offense. He caught 9 passes for 95 yards. However, it doesn’t appear Hernandez’s injury is going to completely derail the wean the offense off of Welker plan. The Pats just signed TE Kellen Winslow to temporarily replace Aaron Hernandez.
If Tom Brady had a poor game this Sunday. Many believe the cracks in his offensive line were the main reason for this. Perhaps its time to consider that his heart not being into a Welkerless offense is also contributing to his lackluster play. The Patriots face another quality defense in the Ravens this Sunday. If Bill Belichik doesn’t start making decisions that bring out the best in his offense, its going to be a long season for already hurting New England Patriot fans.
It will be my pleasure to write about your New England Patriots. What is the key to the Patriots 2012 season? Well, for starters, there is a lot to like about this team. As everyone knows Tom Brady is as charming as Cary Grant and one of the very best players in the NFL. Now it looks like the defense is going to join the party as well. Later I will make a Super Bowl prediction about them.
The key to the Patriots season is their defense. I attended this years draft and spent a lot of time analyzing all the DE’s and concluded that Chandler Jones would have the best NFL career of this group. It looks like the New England Patriots struck gold with Jones. Their other first round pick Donta’ Hightower is another big time keeper. He reminds me of Mike Singletary. Samurai, as he was known in the “Windy City”, was a second round pick because he was considered undersized. This is the same knock on Donta’ Hightower. Singletary’s big heart, smarts and complete dedication to the game made him a Hall of Famer. Hightower could follow the same path. He is a hard nosed tough kid who has a knack for making big plays. He is just the spine stiffening element their defense has needed. The Patriots need to stop a quality offense at critical junctures in a game and not be so reliant on Tom Terrific coming to the rescue. In recent drafts, Bill Belichik has neglected using high picks for his defense and his team has paid for that oversight. The Patriots D has been short in making game changing plays by game changing players. It looks like that is on the way to being fixed.
The offense will be more versatile but the key to the offense is the run game. The high powered capacity of the Pats passing game is a given. As long as Stevan Ridley, this season and beyond, avoids the dreaded fumblitis disease, defenses will be hard pressed to stop the Pats offense in key points of a game. Their oline will probably be somewhat inconsistent in the early part of the season, so going with an approximate 50-50 split on pass vs run plays should be critical in enabling them to build confidence and cohesion while keeping Tom Brady out of harms way. In the New England Patriots opener Tom Brady completed 23 of 31 passes for a 117.1 rating. They ran the ball 36 times. Only a few times last year was the pass/run ratio close to 50-50. In their Super Bowl loss, Brady threw 41 times to 19 run attempts. The Pats got away from being a tough physical team due to their heavy reliance on the pass. Running more, getting their pass/run ratio to 50-50, and making more big defensive plays will get them back to being a team respected or even feared because of their toughness.