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The Patriots should trade Mallett

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When the Patriots selected Ryan Mallett out of Arkansas in the third round of the 2011 draft I, like many others, believed he was the heir apparent to Tom Brady. But as one of my favorite sayings go, conditions on the ground have changed. Brady is still playing at a high level, and keeping Mallett on the bench for much longer is not just bad for Mallett himself, but it is bad for the team.

 Whether you want to admit it or not, Mallett is not going to be the man to replace Brady when he hangs up the cleats. The longer they keep him on the roster, the harder it will be to actually find someone that can replace one of the greatest to ever play the game. Mallett is currently set to become a free agent in 2015 at the end of his rookie deal, while Brady just signed a deal that would make him a Patriot until the end of the 2017 season. Those numbers don’t match. I simply don’t see Mallett signing another deal to stick with the Pats when he could easily sign with another team with the opportunity to start in the NFL and I don’t see him replacing Brady while Tom is still under contract.

 Bill Belichick does what is best for his football team, and what is best for the Patriots is to dump Mallett and get something in return while they still can. The team has a mere 5 picks in this years’ draft and nothing in between the 3rd and 7th rounds. A team in need of a QB could give the Patriots possibly a second rounder in next years’ draft and maybe a fourth in this years’. That’s pretty good value for someone taken in the third round.

 This is also what is best for Mallett. Ryan came on to the Patriots’ team with all sorts of question marks about his maturity. As of this writing he has remained a true professional and the best way to reward that is to give him a true opportunity to follow his true dream, to play starting quarterback in the NFL. The longer he sits on the bench, the less chance he will have of fulfilling that dream, Belichick gave Mallett his first shot in the NFL, now it’s time to give him another.

 According to reports early this morning, the Patriots were fielding phone calls about the availability of Ryan Mallett. A trade will probably not happen tonight, although it would not shock me, but the Patriots should pull the trigger and dump him. Maybe a team like the Raiders, or the Eagles who really still aren’t set at the position would be willing to give the kid from Arkansas a chance by giving up some picks to New England; and if the deal is right, Belichick shouldn’t hesitate.

Full Patriots mock on the eve of the NFL draft

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  • Round 1, Pick 29 – Datone Jones, DE, UCLA Last year the Patriots surprised a lot of people and moved up twice in the first round to get two solid defenders that are poised to be anchors in that defense for the foreseeable future. The defense was improved with those additions as both players made an immediate impact from week 1 (although injuries did slow down Chandler Jones later on in the season). Pass rush is still an issue in New England though, so enter Datone Jones of UCLA. Jones has that size that Bill Belichick likes in his pass rushing defensive linemen and has the versatility that is so valued in Foxboro. Jones has a good burst and can absolutely get after the passer. What makes Jones a logical selection here is his ability to also play the run. Bill would much rather pick a player in the first round who can play on first, second and third down, Jones can do that. He can play with his hand in the dirt and can probably even stand up and play a little bit of linebacker if necessary. The Patriots have a solid contributor on the other side of Chandler Jones with veteran Rob Ninkovich, but the addition of Datone Jones would make that defensive line something to be excited for if you’re a Patriots’ fan. That would make a base 4-man front consisting of Chandler Jones, Tommy Kelly, Vince Wilfork, and Datone Jones Of course Belichick is always liable to trade down, especially this year where he doesn’t have many mid-round picks.

 

  • Round 2, Pick 59 – Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor The Patriots are not very deep at wide receiver. Newcomers Danny Amendola and Donald Jones are really their top targets at the position and that should make Patriots’ fans uncomfortable. The Patriots have not been good at picking receivers in the draft (see Chad Jackson) and they have been even worse at developing them after selecting them (see Taylor Price). They need someone to make big plays on offense for Brady, they need someone who will be able to create a rapport with Brady, and I truly believe that Williams is the best man for the job. I absolutely loved this guy on film. He has all the measurables you want in a receiver and he just looks great on the field. He was the deep threat for the Bears for the last couple years and he looks to continue to be that in the NFL. He is physical player who isn’tafraid to go up over the defender and make the tough catch. He runs different routes on the outside too; slants, button hooks, out and in routes make him a versatile weapon that could be dangerous in the Patriots’ offense. He is also a pretty decent red zone threat. I really like Williams, and if he is available at this spot, the Patriots should not hesitate to pounce on him.

 

  • Round 3, Pick 89 – Tyrann Mathieu, DB, LSU The secondary in Foxboro is shaping up to be very interesting for the coming season. They locked up Aqib Talib for at least one more year, Alfonzo Dennard missed out on jail time (at least time that will force him to miss any games or camp), and I absolutely love the signing of Adrian Wilson at safety. Then comes the player formerly known as the honey badger. Mathieu is a bit of small player and needs to be used correctly if he is going to be successful in the NFL. What Mathieu is though, is a big time playmaker; and you can’t have too many of those on your defense. Getting him at this point of the draft also presents some solid value. Mathieu also has a bit of that versatility factor as he is a pretty prolific punt returner, and while that job is pretty much locked up in Foxboro by Julian Edelman, he tends to get hurt too often.

 

  • Round 7, Pick 226 –Joseph Fauria, TE, UCLA Fauria is the nephew of former Patriot Christian Fauria so there is that connection. Tight end is not necessarily a position of need for the Patriots, but with some of the stories of both Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez in danger of missing a significant portion of training camp, some bodies may be needed. Fauria made some big plays for the Bruins this season and might even have the opportunity to make the team if he really shines in camp.

 

  • Round 7, pick 235 – Keelan Johnson, DB, ASU Yes, I am a Sun Devil. But safety is still a need position and Johnson is a more than solid player who could be available here. Johnson is a natural leader, and a hard-nosed player on the field. At this point you are throwing darts at the board anyway, and Johnson is a very good player who could make the team or at the very least get a job on the practice squad.

2012 NFL Season: Postmortem

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WR Torrey Smith celebrates a Super Bowl victory

The 2012-2013 NFL season has come to a close, the Ravens are Super Bowl champions and Ray Lewis goes out on top once again. This season has truly been one of the strangest and most memorable NFL seasons to date, let’s take a look at why.

BountyGate

Gregg Williams

Before the season even began one of the biggest stories of the year hit. Nearly the entire Saints coaching staff and several of their current and former players faced heavy penalties for the teams alleged “pay-for-play” program. Former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is still suspended by the league, but has a job waiting for him with the Rams if he is reinstated by Roger Goodell. Sean Peyton missed the entire season also due to suspension; Jonathon Vilma spent most of his season in courtrooms fighting his suspension.

Even with all of these sanctions most people believed the Saints would still make the playoffs. After all they did still have Drew Brees at quarterback and you couldn’t ask for a better person to lead a team after a scandal like this. It wasn’t to be though as they started off the year 0-4 including a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, who ended the season with the worst overall record in the league, at home in the SuperDome. The Saints ended the year 7-9, their worst mark since they lost the same amount of games in 2007, the year before their Super Bowl.

Replacement Refs

Once the season kicked off, our old pal Roger Goodell had yet another problem when he couldn’t work a deal with the NFL referees. I was of the belief that the refs called in to replace Ed Hoculi and his ilk wouldn’t really make that much of a difference. I wasn’t expecting them to be absolutely incompetent, but that’s exactly what they were. For me it started on Sunday Night Football week 3, Patriots vs. Ravens. Up to that point the worst officiated game I had ever seen was Super Bowl XL where the Steelers stole a Lombardi from Seattle, but this game blew that one away. The calls, on both teams by the way, were just some of the worst phantom penalties I have ever had the displeasure of seeing. (By the way I still don’t think that field goal was good)

Touchdown? Interception? Bueller?

.

Of course the pivotal moment of the replacement ref era came the next night, on the biggest stage, Monday Night Football. Seattle was driving as time expired, trying to beat Green Bay Packers. Rookie QB Russell Wilson threw up a prayer as the clock hit 0:00 to Golden Tate; the play was ultimately ruled a touchdown for Seattle and they walked out with a win, but it has to have the biggest asterisk next to it in the history of pro sports. You can look at that play anyway you want, M.D. Jennings intercepted that ball and the Packers should have won that game. It was the saddest excuse for officiating since….well the previous night. The only good thing you can say about that whole debacle is it brought back the real refs faster, and boy was it good to see Mike Carey and Ed Hoculi back on the field again so we could get mad at them for their bad calls.

Guys! Guys! Guys! We don’t have to deal with Ray Lewis anymore…wait

Oh Please!

I don’t like Ray Lewis; I never have and probably never will. I find his whole shtick extremely tiresome and quite honestly I think the whole thing is phony. In a lot of ways I find Lewis even more off-putting than Tim Tebow (and those who know me know how I feel about that man). So while I was happy to hear this would “be his last ride” *vomit*, it was bittersweet to see him end his career with a Super Bowl win.

But my real problem is that we really aren’t done with this guy. Soon after announcing this would be his final season, Lewis signed a contract with ESPN; so now I’ll have to see his face and hear his nonsensical speeches every damn week on NFL Countdown *vomit again*. (Aren’t you proud I talked about Ray Lewis without mentioning how he is a murderer…whoops)

The Jets are still the Jets

I thought I’d end on a light note that everyone can enjoy. In the 2009 and 2010 seasons the Jets made it to the AFC championship game. Everyone and their brother said it was their time; they were gearing up to dethrone the Patriots as the team in the AFC East. This year it all came crashing down on them, and it was glorious to witness.

The no-ring circus was especially entertaining this season

It really was over when they made the Tebow trade; we all should have known that was the end of the Jets (well I knew but whatever). But they still have to play the games and boy were those some awful games the Jets played, especially at home. Shut out at home by the 49ers, a pathetic 7-6 win over Arizona at home, and a loss to Miami in New Jersey by 21 points. The Jets are not a good football team and it starts with the ownership; Woody Johnson simply does not care about winning football games. He only cares about getting more headlines than the Giants, even if it means stinking beyond belief. The Jets ended a pathetic 6-10 year with a three game losing streak and were 3-5 in MetLife. It’s quite clear the Patriots will continue to have a stranglehold on the AFC East for a while. Here’s hoping the Jets blow their high draft pick and pass up another Warren Sapp. (I didn’t even mention the butt fumble did I…)

In Conclusion

The NFL is a year-round sport. We will have a bit of a break from NFL news for the next few weeks but the offseason is waiting in the wings right now to flood the market again once free agency begins. Then there is the draft, my favorite time of year. The combine, pro days, interviews, workouts, Mayock’s inane jabber, Kiper’s hair; it all just fills me with such hope and joy for yet another wonderful NFL season to come.

For my pre-offseason prediction, I’ll forever remain the homer. The Patriots are going back next year, and won’t it be sweet to win that 4th Lombardi in the house of the Giants and Jets, oh it sure will.

As for now though, well, March Madness is coming up soon…oh and baseball I guess.

Follow me on Twitter: @bill_slane

It’s Time to Move On From Welker

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Welker drops a pass in last year’s Super Bowl where the Patriots fell yet again to the New York Giants

Since the Patriots traded for Wes Welker before the 2007 season, the slot receiver has been a go to target for Tom Brady. He has consistently made over 100 catches for the Patriots and has been a reliable target on third down…in the regular season. For a few postseasons now it appears that Welker has not been able to keep the momentum he has from the first 16 games into January. Welker has been a perfect Patriot since he has come to Foxboro, but it may be time to move on.

This season the Patriots used a franchise tag on Welker after they were unable to work out a long-term deal with the 31-year-old receiver. Welker went on to have yet another 100+ catch year while totaling over 1000 yards and leading the NFL in yards after the catch (just another ho-hum year for Wes). One of the most amazing things about Welker in the regular season is how reliable he has been on third down. As I watched every Patriot game this season I was always amazed how it seemed whenever Brady went to Welker on third down, they were able to move the chains.

During this season, I was a big proponent of giving Welker another contract. I was ready to give him anything he wanted so that he would remain a Patriot, but after yet another disappointing playoff loss I think it might be time for the Patriots to move on.

For the past two postseasons Welker has not been Welker. Uncharacteristic drops have plagued him and have probably cost the Patriots a Super Bowl and the chance at another. This isn’t just about Welker though; it really is more about the offensive strategy of the Patriots for the past few years. Using receivers like Welker and even Brandon Lloyd (who obviously is afraid of contact after some of the catches I watched him make this year) is not the way to win championships when you have to play defenses like the 49ers, Ravens and Giants. Teams like that will just rough up these smaller receivers and make it impossible to move the ball through the air.

The Patriots toughest receiver, Rob Gronkowski, was out for the AFC Championship this season and was rendered useless by an ankle injury in last year’s Super Bowl.  A dominant player like him would have helped win those games, as he cannot be pushed around as easily. The Patriots need more players like Gronk.

I realize

how silly that sounds. Obviously any team would want more players like Gronkowski, the man is a freak of nature a once in a lifetime kind of player. What I really mean by this is they need bigger and faster weapons in the offense. Aside from being their toughest receiver, Gronkowski is also the team’s biggest deep threat. That needs to be changed.

The 6’2″ Dwayne Bowe could bring a new dimension to the Patriots’ passing attack

Giving Welker a new contract, or even placing the franchise tag on him again is just going to waste money that could go instead to signing a receiver that could help against those more physical teams; Dwayne Bowe and Mike Wallace who are both pending free agents come to mind.

Welker has helped the Patriots win a lot of football games in the regular season, but he has made too many mistakes in the playoffs to be on my football team. It’s time for the Patriots to move on from Wes Welker and change their offensive mentality. I firmly believe that they will find ways to win games in the regular season without him and instead bring in someone who can help them go back to the Promised Land and bring that 4th Lombardi to Foxboro.

Todd Graham’s first year a success despite failures

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ASU head coach Todd Graham

The ASU-U of A rivalry is one of the oldest in the country. The Territorial Cup itself is in fact the oldest rivalry trophy in the NCAA. For this very reason both teams go in to their season each and every year with one main goal, beat that other team, prove your superiority in Arizona. For this reason, you have to call Todd Graham’s first year as ASU’s head coach a success; however, there is still much to be desired from this team.

Last night’s game was really a microcosm of the Sun Devils’ season as a whole, inconsistent. Even when leading at half, the game felt like it was being controlled by the Wildcats. Penalties by the Devils and poor tackling of Arizona running back Ka’Deem Carey made it feel like it was always Arizona’s game to lose. Despite this, the Devils did take a lead into the half but like they have all year, they came back out looking lackluster yet again.

All year long it seems like when the Devils took some momentum into the locker room, they would leave in there, allowing their opponent to come back into it. Leads against UCLA, Oregon State and USC were all blown during a 4-game losing streak for the Devils.

Of course, it wasn’t all bad. Wins over Illinois, Utah and Cal were all very impressive. It even seemed like ASU would make a game of it against Oregon before Will Sutton and Junior Onyeali both went down early on. Todd Graham had a lot of talent to work with this season, I would say talent that is better than its 7-5 record, but it could’ve been worse.

The season of course is not quite over yet; the Devils still have a bowl game to play. A bowl win for the Devils would be huge, and would be a great ending for Todd Graham as he heads into his second round of recruiting. Graham may have some big shoes to fill in his recruiting too, with Will Sutton and Junior Onyeali both eligible for the NFL draft and neither saying whether or not they’ll stay for one last year. Will Sutton particularly had an out-of-this-world season, racking up 10.5 sacks and an unreal 20 tackles for loss.

There isn’t much to complain about with Todd Graham’s first year as the head coach of the Sun Devils. The Devils improved on both their overall (7-5 in 2012, 6-6 in 2011) and conference (5-4 in 2012, 4-5 in 2011) records this season. In the end though, they beat the Wildcats, and isn’t that all that really matters.

Belichick at it Again

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Aqib Talib returning an interception against the Cowboys

After the New England Patriots’ loss in the 2006 AFC Championship game, there was a loud cry from fans everywhere that it was time to upgrade the receiving corps. The “island of misfit toys” was enough to get New England to within one game of the big one but it just wasn’t enough to get past the Colts (the eventual Super Bowl champions). The Patriot’s head coach and general manager, Bill Belichick, apparently agreed with the outcry and did more than upgrade that position that offseason, he created a juggernaut.

During that year’s draft, the Patriots’ worked a deal with the Oakland Raiders to acquire veteran Randy Moss. That season, Moss broke the single-season record for receiving touchdowns with 23 and the Patriots went a perfect 16-0 in the regular en route to a Super Bowl loss to the Giants. Randy Moss was not the kind of player a lot of people thought of when they thought of the Patriots. Moss had issues that mainly consisted of not showing great effort 100% of the time, which is what Belichick demands out of all of his players. The Moss move was a home run for the Patriots but it wasn’t the first of its kind.

In 2003, the Patriots made a trade with the Cincinnati Bengals for troubled running back Corey Dillon. Dillon had a lot of off-field concerns; he was also seen as a “jerk” player who did not like being a good teammate. That season Dillon set career highs and Patriots’ franchise records with 1,635 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns in a Super Bowl winning year for the Patriots.

These kind of low-risk/high-reward moves have not always worked for Belichick however. This past year, he made big trades with the Bengals and the Redskins to acquire wide receiver Chad Ochocinco and defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth. Both had on and off field concerns and neither made an impact on the team. Haynesworth was cut before the halfway mark and Chad ended the season just a handful of catches.

Well, yesterday Belichick did it again with the acquisition of cornerback Aqib Talib from Tampa Bay. Talib is an extremely talented defensive player with a past that is about is checkered as they come. So how is this move going to work out for New England? Let’s compare this move with the other moves of the past.

The move reminds me the most of the Moss trade in 2007. The fans have been screaming for almost 3 years now that something has to be done to fix this maligned secondary and it seems that Belichick finally decided on someone that he thought was worth going after. The Patriots have given up more plays of 20+ yards than any other team in the league and adding a talented player like Talib to the secondary should help to bring that number down.

This trade actually does not have very much in common with the two moves that did not work last season. Unlike Talib, Ocho and Haynesworth were in the back-end of their careers (in fact neither of them are in the NFL right now). Talib is really in the prime of his career and if Belichick can straighten him out (and if he can do that with a guy like Corey Dillon you would have to believe he can do it with Talib) then he just upgraded his defense immensely. The benchmark for the trade is though is whether or not Robert Kraft will be hanging another banner in Gillette next season.

Taking a look at what this does the secondary, you would have to think that Talib immediately becomes the Patriots’ number one cornerback. With Talib in the lineup, the secondary should look as follows: Talib at right corner, Devin McCourty at left corner, Kyle Arrington in the nickel with rookie Tavon Wilson coming in on dime packages, and Steve Gregory and Patrick Chung at safety (when they finally get back on the field). On paper, that is a pretty good-looking unit with Talib in it.

Unfortunately, due to a suspension for using Adderall without a prescription, Talib will not be able to play against the Bills in two Sundays (the Patriots are on a bye this week). So I guess we will just to wait until the Patriots play the Colts in three weeks before we can start to really judge the move.

When it Reigns, it Pours

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The Patriots have been compared to the Empire from Star Wars, is the Death Star getting ready to explode?

What is going on in New England? The Patriots are now 4-3, and are solely in first place in the AFC East but they have not looked like the juggernaut many expected, at least not consistently.

In the second half of the Bills’ game, the Patriots looked like a machine that absolutely destroyed the Bills’ D, it almost could’ve been called illegal. It seemed like the Patriots were getting ready to rape and pillage. But against the Cardinals and Seahawks, Tom Brady and the Patriots’ offense look downright inept, unable to get the ball moving whatsoever.

In the Patriots’ 3 loses, they have been defeated by a total of 4 points. Two of the games were determined by a combined foot of field goals. The Patriots’ losses also have all come after leading, which may be the biggest surprise of these games. For years, the Patriots have always been a team that you could count on to hold on to a lead, mainly by keeping the pedal to the metal on offense and “running up” the score, but they haven’t been able to do that this season thus far.

So what is the problem? Let’s start on offense, a unit that most people have given a pass to for the past few weeks but are as much to blame as anyone. Tom Brady is one of the best quarterbacks to ever put on pads (in my view the best but that is a topic for another time). He made his living coming up big in big moments (Super Bowl 36 being the best example). But as of late it seems like he has lost a bit of that magic (to be fair he did do the job late against the Jets). In my view, Tom has been holding the ball far too much, possibly looking off easy completions to look for a big play opportunity.

On the ground, Stevan Ridley and Brandon Bolden have been a surprise nationally, but to fans of the team it shouldn’t have been a shocker. The emergence of a solid ground game has been a nice thing to see on a team that hasn’t had a legitimate rushing attack since Corey Dillon (coincidence that that was the last time the Patriots won a Super Bowl?). But the rushing attack has not been consistent enough, and it needs to be if the Patriots want to make it to New Orleans. The Patriots have rushed for under 100 yards in three games, those games being their three loses.

The most concerning thing to me however has been their inability to finish off games. They have been flat-out awful running the four-minute drill to close out opponents and it has really been sickening to watch. They let the Baltimore and Seattle games slip right through their hands because of terrible play on offense in the final minutes, they need to finish, they need to play 60 minutes of good football.

Now on to the coaching staff. Aside from poor, head-scratching play calls from offensive coordinator and prodigal son Josh McDaniels, the coaching staff as a whole has been poor this season. Perhaps the most egregious blunder being some of the worst clock management and decision-making I’ve seen in the Seahawks’ game (I still don’t understand not taking the 3 points at the end of the half). Bill Belichick is the best coach in history in my view, but he just has not been the same this year and that’s just a fact.

Now let’s get to the meat of it; this defense is bad, real, real bad. But let’s start with the good. The front seven has been much improved this season. Rookie Chandler Jones has been what I expected and much more so far. Brandon Spikes has been a major presence on the field and has, thus far, been able to stay healthy. Rob Ninkovich continues to convince me is a clone of former Patriot Mike Vrabel. Jerod Mayo and Vince Wilfork continue to be both veteran leaders and contributors to the unit. They aren’t the problem. The problem is, and has been for 4 years now, the secondary.

To be fairly blunt about it, I don’t think Belichick is playing an NFL-caliber secondary every week. This week (due to injuries to starting safeties Patrick Chung and Steve Gregory) the Patriots were forced to start two rookies at the position. One was Tavon Wilson, a surprise second round pick who was not at the NFL combine or any of the college all-star games. The other was Nate Ebner, a surprise sixth round pick from Ohio State who barely played a full year of football as a Buckeye. He was picked by Belichick because of his star ability on the Ohio State rugby team. There is a big time problem there, and a lot of it should be blamed on Bill Belichick, the general manager.

Since 2000, the Patriots have selected 9 defensive backs in the first 3 rounds of the draft. Three remain on the team, only one other remains playing in the NFL. When you can’t pick a position in the draft, and it is obvious that they just can’t find a good DB in the draft, you have to try and fill that position in free agency. Now, they did try that this season with Steve Gregory, and while some are killing him, I think he’s done an OK job thus far (if he can ever get on the field again I can give a better review of him). But we need more help than the second best safety from the San Diego Chargers.

This secondary as it stands is a joke; a cruel, sick and twisted joke. The Patriots have allowed more plays of 20 yards or more than any other team in the NFL and all of those plays have been through the air. They made Russell Wilson look like Joe Montana, Mark Sanchez look like Joe Namath and they made Peyton Manning look like…well OK like Peyton Manning. But the buck needs to stop here. There isn’t much that can be done this season, Belichick can try his best to coach these guys up (and God bless him if he can) but they need some help next offseason even if this team can find some way to bring home a Lombardi.

(Last offseason, Dashon Goldson re-signed with the 49ers. Before doing so he made a trip to Foxboro and reportedly was offered a contract that he obviously decided to decline. Goldson is now a part of one of the best defenses in football. A team that has given up 13 plays of 20 or more yards compared to the Patriots’ total of 39. They can’t be afraid to sign a young player to a lot of money. They can’t hope we find another aging player like Rodney Harrison who nobody thinks is any good anymore and hope he still has something left, they just don’t have the time and the fans just don’t have the patience. )

The problem might be the coaching in this case too. Maybe the scheme that Bill Belichick is teaching his young DBs is too complex for them too handle and it is hindering their ability to play. In 2010, Devin McCourty had a lights-out rookie season. It wasn’t just all of the interceptions he had; he was a great cover corner. I have never seen a Patriots’ cornerback run with his man like McCourty did his rookie year. However, after another year in the system and another year under Belichick, McCourty regressed and had an awful 2011 season. McCourty continues to struggle this year and I have to think that some of this has to be blamed on Belichick, on Matt Patricia the defensive coordinator and on Josh Boyer the defensive backs coach.

A lot of people have been saying this is the end of an era for the Patriots, and as much as it pains me to say it, it sure does look like it even after a victory. The defense continues to regress, and the offense continues to struggle. However, this season is not lost. The Giants have showed twice now that it doesn’t matter what you do in the regular season, you just need to get hot at the right time and maybe New England can do that. The Patriots’ have two seemingly difficult games left on the schedule (the Niners and the Texans) and lucky for the Pats, they are both at home.

Despite a pathetic start to the season, the Patriots’ still have a legitimate reason to be called the best team in the AFC. Who else would it be? The Ravens? They have lost just about every key person on their defense. The Steelers? They sure haven’t looked the same this year. The Texans probably have the best argument but Green Bay dismantled them so they sure aren’t perfect.

The Patriots will win the AFC East, will make the playoffs and will probably also have a first-round bye. The question is will they make it farther. Right now, I would probably guess no. The secondary is just so bad right now I can’t imagine them being able to hold together well enough to even make it to the AFC championship game. But maybe they can do what the Giants have done to them twice now, get hot in the playoffs and bring home that Lombardi to Foxboro again, maybe. Right now, I have my doubts.

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