It’s 2007 all over again for the Patriots.
Okay, no it isn’t, but it’s eerily similar. You don’t believe me, just look at the similarities.
Lets begin with the controversies. Back in 2007, Spygate dominated the early season headlines after the Patriots were busted for taping the signals of opposing teams. The rat was then New York Jets coach and ex-Patriots defensive coordinator Eric Magini. During the Patriots 38-17 beatdown and the Brady-to-Moss coming out party, the Jets notified NFL of the Patriots shenanigans and they were caught red-handed. Multiple fines ($500,000 for Bill Belichick, $250,000 for the Patriots organization) and a first round pick were the price the Patriots paid for their line crossing ways, but many felt this punishment was too light. With the world against them, the Patriots responded by going undefeated in the regular season, only to fall short of capping of the complete season, losing to the Giants 17-14 in Super Bowl XLII.
By now, most of you have heard of Deflategate; the controversy that engulfed the Patriots after the AFC Championship game into their Super Bowl XLIX victory and offseason. Eventually the NFL docked the Patriots a first round pick and fined the Patriots $1 million, with Brady being banned for the first 4 games of the season. Going through the appeals process, Roger Goodell rejected the appeal – to no ones surprise – and an ensuing court battle began. On September 3, Judge Berman overturned the suspension allowing Brady to play the entire season. The NFL appealed Berman’s decision, but that’s a battle that will continue into the offseason, lets forget about that for right now. With Brady playing, the Patriots have amassed a 9-0 record, blowing out teams into oblivion and continuing their dominance. Brady has a 24:3 touchdown to interception ratio and is averaging 338.1 passing yards per game. Naturally, comparisons between the 2007 team and this year’s team has come up, when Brady won the NFL MVP after his 50 touchdown season.
That 2007 Patriots went 18-1 with the lone loss coming in the Super Bowl and that insane David Tyree catch. It was the best NFL team I’ve ever seen play to this day. I never saw the 1985 Bears, or one of the 1990’s Cowboys team (I was four when they won their 3rd Super Bowl), 1980’s 49ers team, 1970’s Steelers team or the 1971 Dolphins – so I can’t compare them to those teams. But, if I compare them to the 2001 Rams or the 1998 Vikings in terms of greatest teams of the modern era, the Patriots win that battle. But the funny things is that neither of the those teams won the Super Bowl. The Vikings were upset in the Divisional round while the Rams lost to the upstart Patriots in Super Bowl 36 (and we know about the ’07 Patriots).
That’s the trend in the modern era – the best looking teams don’t always win it all. Sometimes its the hottest team. Just look at the 2013 Broncos, 2010 Patriots, 2009 Colts, 2006 Chargers, 2005 Colts, 2004 Steelers – all of them lost while having the best regular season that year. All of those teams won at least 13 games, but they either lost the Super Bowl or lost in the playoffs, wasting a great year and eventually forgotten. That being said, the 2007 Patriots would blow out every single one of those teams out, that’s how great they were; they just happened to lose the most important game of the year.
The 2015 Patriots were on the path to challenge the ’07 team in terms of offensive production. With Edelman, Gronk, Amendola, Lewis, Blount and the rest of the crew putting up crazy stats through the first eight weeks of the season. But the team has come down to earth. Injuries across the offensive line and at the skill positions has slowed down the offensive juggernaut the team was earlier. With Dion Lewis and Julian Edelman out for the rest of the year (there’s a chance Edelman can come back for the playoffs), the probability of the Patriots going undefeated took a big hit. The offense will have to adjust, and their numbers won’t be as explosive, but they still have Tom Brady and you always have chance to win with Tom Brady even with 3rd stringers out there catching balls.
Before week 8 against the Redskins, I believed the team would go undefeated, now they’ll be lucky to. They’re schedule certainly sets the stage up to run the table. The only teams that can beat the Patriots are the Broncos (at Mile High) and the Jets (at Meadowlands), but the Broncos have a mess with Manning and Jets have the ticking time bomb that is Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback. Those are hardly guaranteed losses, but hat doesn’t account for the ‘any given Sunday’ chance other teams might get. The Bills, Eagles, Titans, Texans and Dolphins are the other remaining five teams, and they don’t scare me in to thinking they will beat the Patriots, but they could.
I almost don’t want to say it because I don’t want to jinx it, but I believe the Patriots will go 16-0 – but mostly because of their weak schedule. I don’t rule out the possibility of them going 15-1 or even 14-2, and lets face it, that wouldn’t be the end of the world. But given their history with this topic, you know Belichick and Brady want another shot at going undefeated, and this might be their last opportunity. Brady won’t play forever and Belichick probably doesn’t have another Tom Brady in his closet. That only question would be if the team is ready to tackle the battle especially given their sudden rash of injuries. If there’s anybody capable of handling the weight of this load, it’s this Patriots team.
I have to admit though, part of me thinks maybe it’s best just to lose a game and escape all the undefeated attention. That kind of pressure can tear a team down mentally. If that ’07 lost in the Super Bowl, I certainly think this team is even more susceptible to lose a game – and trust me, I’d rather lose any regular season game than losing an undefeated season in the postseason or Super Bowl. That’s just too cruel to suffer twice. They don’t have the offensive fire power to roll through the postseason without a hitch. They’re just too beat down. I have doubt this team can overcome all those injuries and the pressure of going undefeated; it’s a tall task that might be impossible. But I’ve been wrong before, I hope I’m wrong again.