By Dan Zeigarnik. Patriots Daily Staff
What a whirlwind the last 3 weeks have been. I know that everyone talks about the ups and downs of an NFL season, but I don’t quite think that having our fans yo-yoing like an ADHD sugar-laden kid is what we had in mind.
Just a week ago all the focus was on the atrocious losses to Pittsburgh and Giants. The Patriots were gutted by the Steelers, who seemed to have broken historic ground by discovering that they could send a tight end right down the middle of the field and that the opposing defense, having never seen this kind of play before, would have no choice but to clear out. This was followed up by an eerie Eli Manning game winning drive that was topped off by yet another number 85’s gut-wrenching catch. Despite all this, I am here to say, ‘do not lose all hope, oh ye of lil’ faith.’
Since when have Patriots fans taken on the Yankee fan-like attitude towards local sports teams? Red Sox fans circa 2003 remember how much the New York’s championship-or-bust attitude was loathed. The most grating of which was the fact that they expected to be the predominant favorite going into spring training and then again at the All-Star break. Any kind of deviation from their inevitable juggernaut machine was met with panic, firings, and frantic over-purchasing of players. Red Sox fans, besides the obvious disdain, felt a kind of pity, because they understood that a true fan enjoys the ups and downs and isn’t just a auditioning for Extreme Hoarding- Championship Ring Edition. I hope that Patriot fans are better then that.
Then from the pits of this despair, a much needed win came against the Jets, an inconsistent team, headed by an inconsistent quarterback. For some inexplicable reason all is cured in Patriots land. Just a few weeks ago, 98.5 the SportsHub turned itself into a Center-For-Ridicule: a place to unload all of your anger and frustration. The hosts were insulting members of the coaching staff for the fact that some of them were at one time graduate coaching assistants in the NCAA’s. Fans were even calling into the station and demanding Belichick’s head.
Now, after sweeping the Jets in an incredibly satisfying fashion, the Patriots ‘have the easiest remaining schedule in the NFL’ and therefore it is a given that they will have homefield advantage in the playoffs. Everyone remembers slaughtering the Jets in Week 13 of 2010 by a score of 45-3 and how seamlessly that translated into the beat-down the Pats laid on them once again in the playoffs. Whoops.
It’s true that the Patriots remaining 2011 opponents (Chiefs, Eagles, Colts, Redskins, Broncos, Dolphins and Bills) aren’t exactly a murderers row. However, if the Patriots had lost to the Jets, would that schedule somehow gotten harder? Does beating the Jets somehow prove that the 2011 Patriots are for real? Does it eliminate the fact that New England has no deep passing threat, an inconsistent running game and an incredibly porous pass defense?
No it doesn’t. The 2011 Patriots are not an amazing team and that should be OK. They are 6-3 with an inside track of winning the AFC East which is laudable. They have swept the Jets and they did it without Spikes, Chung, and McCourty on defense. The rest of the regular season should be focused on getting healthy and hitting a hot streak in the playoffs.
Pats fans need to stop comparing their team to the ideal and start comparing the Patriots to the rest of the AFC Elite: Houston has lost Schaub for the season. Pittsburgh, despite crushing the Patriots, lost to Houston, got embarrassed by Baltimore, and barely beat Jacksonville and the Colts.
As far as the Bengals go, four of their wins were against basement dwellers Seattle, Cleveland, Jacksonville, and Indianapolis, so it won’t come as much of a surprise that they lost to Denver…..Sorry I just took a knee to pray for a second because the Bengals have two games against Pittsburgh and Baltimore still left on the schedule
Ravens looked like a beast against Pittsburgh, but lost to Jacksonville and Tennessee and needed a 21 point comeback against the lowly Cardinals. Their running game and defense is stellar but their quarterback leaves much to be desired.
Nobody is arguing that being the predominant favorites going into the playoffs isn’t a great thing. But let’s not turn into Yankees fans and throw hissy fits every time the Patriots lose its first regular season home game in 4 years or back-to-back games against two of the league’s better teams.
Just try to keep in mind that the 2010 Packers, 2007 Giants, and 2005 Steelers won the Superbowl as wild card teams. That’s 3 in the last 6 Super Bowls! So it’s all about making it to the playoffs and getting hot, and not because Eli Manning had a game-winning drive in Week 9 or whether the Patriots can clobber Mark Sanchez in Week 10.
Let us enjoy each week for what it is and not extrapolate too much from each win or loss. Otherwise we too might need a ritalin prescription.