Time Out for Sports Talk: Gorging on Greatness After a Giant Victory
Todd: I've said it before in this space - as Patriots fans, we have been absolutely spoiled for the better part of the last fifteen years, and there is no other group of NFL fans that can make that claim.
It's gotten to the point that the only games most Pats fans can recall took place in January or February. Almost every game played in the fall during the Bill Belichick/Tom Brady era has become a blur of ordinary, everyday multiple-score victories.
Even Mike noted he was too busy socializing during last week’s routine drubbing of the Washington Redskins to pay attention to the game, and he’s hardly the only one who can make that claim. Safe to say we’ve taken many of the Pats’ regular season wins for granted.
But once in a while we are witness to the type of excitement that unfolded at New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium on Sunday, a regular season contest that will stick with us and perhaps provide a harbinger of some more ‘games to glory’.
Had to figure that the Giants would again be a worthy adversary, perhaps aided by Julian Edelman’s injury (more on that below) and a Pats O-line that resembled Swiss cheese (I need to find another analogy to describe something riddled with holes).
BTW if I was a Giants fan, I would certainly savor the two Super Bowl wins over the last decade. But I’d also be frustrated as Hades that Coughlin and Eli can only consistently play well against one team that they only play every four years.
Back to Sunday—credit Brady for yet again calmly leading the Pats down the field with no time outs for that game winning score, even if the Giants exhibited some questionable clock management to allow Tom even more time at the end to get the job done.
Also big credit to Stephen Gostkowski (who gave a cool shoutout to ‘Polish Power’ during his postgame press conference) for not only kicking his 30th consecutive field goal (he’s now a perfect 55-for-55 on FG and extra points this season), but improving to an astounding 17-for-21 for his career (81%) on field goals of 50 or more yards.
I couldn’t be happier for Gostkowski for finally getting his Vinatieri-like moment and crushing a clutch kick in the closing seconds of a game. Took until his tenth season to have an opportunity like that, but perhaps fans will now realize that Gostkowski is as good a replacement for Adam Vinatieri, if not in some ways even better.
Speaking of taking the Pats for granted, they have essentially had (barring the occasional short-term injury replacement) two place kickers in the last 20 seasons. For some contrast, the Pittsburgh Steelers are using their fourth kicker this season.
Also want to credit the Pats for setting a new NFL record and extending their scoring streak to 35 consecutive quarters. Still hard to believe the only quarter so far this season they haven’t scored was the first one they played that opening Thursday night against Pittsburgh. They’ve put up points in every quarter since, one reason they remain undefeated.
But while the Pats remain loss-less, what has happened around the league? The Packers lose their third straight, including their first loss to the Lions at Lambeau since 1991. The Seahawks don’t look anything like the team that was one yard away from beating the Pats in SB49. Wasn’t tight end Jimmy Graham supposed to help QB Russell Wilson?
Then we turn to the AFC, where the Broncos have lost two straight and might be without Peyton Manning for a while, although that might not necessarily be the worst thing for Denver. Peyton—needing only 4 yards to pass Brett Favre and become the NFL’s all-time passing yardage leader—wound up setting a new mark but finished last week’s game with only 35 yards passing, four interceptions, a zero QB rating and a trip to the bench with injuries. Was he left in the game just to break that record?
The Bengals are trying to prove they’re for real, but scoring six points in a Monday night home game against the Texans isn’t go to convince anyone. Perhaps winning in Arizona this Sunday night against their former starting QB might convince the critics.
Let me assess the state of the NFL these days, Jeopardy-style: Case Keenum, T.J. Yates and Brock Osweiler. While it’s true that none of these three people have ever been in my kitchen, they are all NFL quarterbacks expected to start this weekend. Hmmm…don’t think I’ll be picking any of their teams to win, although I suppose I couldn’t do much worse than my picks last week.
Anyway, the Patriots have another matchup with Rex Ryan’s Buffalo Bills at Foxboro on Monday night. I think the Bills are playing better of late, but the Pats should still be able to dictate the outcome, despite missing some offensive weapons. Yes, Brady is going to miss Julian Edelman badly (keeping fingers crossed that JE11 is back at full strength for the playoffs) and with both Edelman and Lewis now out, the offense is going to struggle these next seven weeks. But it’s Rex and the Bills, for crying out loud! Patriots 27, Bills 13.
Week 11 picks (0-3 last week, 15-12 season): Think I picked the wrong week to pick all home teams, as 11 of 14 visitors won last week. Hoping the trend doesn’t continue, I’m going with the Panthers over the Redskins and Falcons over the Colts. But I’ll take one road team—the Cowboys (with the long-awaited return of Tony Romo) to beat the Dolphins in Miami.
Mike: This has been one of the strangest seasons that I can remember as a football fan. Sure, the Patriots are as good as expected, but they've surprised me at how they can keep on rolling with the number of injuries they have experienced.
Losing Edelman is a big blow, but am I fooling myself to believe that Danny Amendola will step up and keep things afloat until the playoffs? He's been mostly a disappointment in his time here in New England, but this season just has the feel of one where people like him step up to the plate.
Maybe I'm just being naive, but this is feeling more and more like a destiny season, one that will end with a zero in the loss column and a fifth Lombardi Trophy in Foxborough.
So, it should come as no surprise that I can't see the Bills taking out the Patriots, Pats win 28-10.
Week 11 picks (1-2 last week, 13-14 season): For the other games this week, I'll take Bears over Broncos, the Cardinals over the Bengals and the Seahawks over San Francisco.