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Saturday, August 20, 2011

NFL's New England Patriots look tough

Guest handicapper and columnist Ralph Colucci takes a look at the 2011 New England Patriots.

Patriots build on strengths

Football is Back!!!

American Football, after escaping a possible lost season due to CBA problems, is back, better than ever and about to embark on a new season. Last year, the New England Patriots, handy winners over all of the playoff teams in contention during a regular season where they finished 14-2, shot themselves in the foot in their opening playoff round loss to the Jets by benching Wes Welker for the opening drive and allowing Rex Ryan to win the head games battle. The Patriots pretend that they are above such things, but professional athletes usually have the biggest egos on the planet and the Pats are no exception.

It is interesting that many “experts” claim the Patriots are weak on defense yet they finished pretty high up on the fantasy list last year, sent half their secondary to the Pro Bowl and made some interesting off season acquisitions on both sides of the ball. Overall, they are a better team than last year where apart from not being ready for the Jets in week two and a bizarre Sunday in Cleveland they were two games away from 16-0 for the second time in four seasons. This writer thinks they will not lose again until some time in 2013 (maybe longer) and here is why.

Offence: New England has had thew most effective offensive line for ten years and who do they draft first? An offensive lineman. Any true football fan knows that the offensive line is the heart and soul of any team and New England drafts big, smart, quick and agile young men and teaches them how to excel at their positions. That was how Matt Cassel could lead the best 11-5 team ever to miss the playoffs (in which they probably would have at least gotten to the Super Bowl). Nate Solder is 6’7”, 320 pounds and graduated fron Colorado with a Biology degree with a 3.54 GPA is a perfect addition.

At quarterback, Brian Hoyer has looked good in preseason and although he may not be as good as Matt Cassel, Tom Brady is as good as it gets at that position and can be the best quarterback in the league with the game on the line.

At running back, Ben Law Firm uses that line to gain positive yards on almost every carry and veterans Fred Taylor, Sammy Morris, Kevin Faulk, versatile Danny Woodhead and so on give them tremendous depth there.

As for receivers, adding Chad Ochocinco on the outside should allow Wes Welker & Deion Branch enough room to get open. Aaron Hernandez may be their most explosive tight end but my favorite is Gronk, Rob Gronkowski, who can lkay out a 320 lb linebacker on his back, get up and catch a 15 yard pass and add 20 yards after the catch. Add speedball Brandon Tate who can stretch the field on the other side from 85 add Julian do-it-all Edelman and you would be hard pressed to find a better overall receiving corp.

Steven Gotkowski is the best kicker in football.

On defence, the acquisition of Haynesworth changes everything. Traditionally a rush tackle, with Vince Wilfork and a healthy Mike Wright on the line with him any team with any brains will have to use six guys to block the three of them and keep a blocking back around on passing situations to prevent serious hurt to QB’s. That leaves three guys for four linebackers and four defensive backs to cover. Even if Belichick puts in Pryor or Love alongside Vince, seven players will have to cover the three free ones but the QB will have to dump off the ball quick. It is hard to envision a scenario that can consistently move the ball against these guys.

At linebacker, Jerod Mayo and Gary Guyton are becoming on par with the leagues best and Ninckovich isn’t for behind. Cunningham and Spikes both have a couple of years under their belt and should improve this year. The fact that they didn’t draft a linebacker iuntil the end of the 6th round and signed a few fringe players at that position speaks volumes about how they feel about their core.

At defensive back, half their guys went to the Pro Bowl (McCourty & Merriweather), this is make or break year for Chung and they overlooked Dowling’s low GPA to draft him 33rd overall.

And finally, on special teams, Welker, Chung, and a cast of rookies will be running back kicks. We will see if someone emerges as a superstar there. So there you go. If they play their game, listen to their coach and keep their egos manageable, I can see no reason they can’t win 46 games in a row. The first 2 were pretty easy. 44 to go.

Here's wishing a Super season to all!!!


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