When it comes to the New England Patriots, Is the cupboard as bare as we’re being told?
If you listen to many in the local media, the Patriots have a severe lack of talent, and are on the verge of being steamrolled in the AFC East standings by the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins, both of which made big-name acquisitions this offseason.
The media loves big name acquisitions. They’ll tell you over and over that the Jets added “names” like LaDainian Tomlinson, Antonio Cromartie, Santonio Holmes, and Jason Taylor. They’ll drool over the Dolphins adding Karlos Dansby and Brandon Marshall.
Meanwhile, the Patriots have added 30-something veterans Alge Crumpler, Damione Lewis
and Torry Holt - none of whom are expected to come in and be standouts for the team.
The logic thus goes that the Patriots really haven’t gotten any better, and that the Jets and Dolphins have taken giant leaps forward, thus passing New England in the standings.
As in many things, the last impression is the one that we remember. The blowout loss to the Baltimore Ravens in the wildcard playoff game in January is what most people remember about the 2009 Patriots. The Patriots were completely overmatched in that game, and looked as bad as they had in any game during the 10 year Bill Belichick era.
With that game in mind, and how the Jets advanced to the AFC title game, most “experts” are assuming that since the Jets added so many big names this offseason that the Jets already have the 2010 AFC Title all sewn up.
I assert that the Patriots 10-6 record is actually somewhat deceiving, and that this team, for all its inconsistencies last year, was just a few plays away from being a much better team. Much of the inconsistency can be pinned on new or young players not having the experience to make the correct play at the right time.
Think about some of those losses - Denver, Indianapolis, Miami - those three games were there for the team win, and they couldn’t make the one play needed to secure the victory. They weren’t that far off in the end of the Jets loss, and in the loss to the Texans, I believe if their focus was 100% on winning the game, instead of rest guys, and then trying to make up for the injury to Welker, they win that game as well. The only regular season game in which they didn’t have a chance was the New Orleans game.
I also believe that many of those players will benefit from another year in the system, and will be better equipped to make those plays in the future. So of those five games mentioned above, say they make the crucial play three times. Instead of 10-6, we’re looking at a 13-3 team. If one of those was the Colts win, they get the first round bye, and don’t play the Ravens in the first round.
How different would the perception be right now?
Bruce Allen is the creator of Boston Sports Media Watch, which has recently been recognized by SI.com as one of the best non-corporate sports web site's on the Internet