Well, it’s finally settled in now. The Patriots lost a hard fought AFC Championship game in Denver last Sunday. It gives Patriots Nation a chance to look back on the season as a whole and see what helped, or hurt, leading up to the playoff loss.
The first thing that comes to my mind is the choice to rest banged up starters, and play “preventative” offense week 17 in Miami, seriously, if you aren’t going to the big dance, why rest them right? Nah, Bill was setting the team up for their best shot at a repeat SB run. Face it, we are spoiled as fans of the greatest NFL team over the better part of 2 DECADES…. ( yes decades, plural ) that is insane! In a time of parody within the league (trying to move the best to the bottom, and the worst to the top) Belichick has continued to have the Patriots in playoff position almost every year since he started as head coach.
Chew on this for a minute, have you ever noticed as a fan, whenever the Patriots lose, we catch flak from the opposing fanbases? You know why? (That’s right, they expected the Pats to win) That’s what they’ve been doing and what they will continue to do as long as Belichick’s system is run like it has been run. (In case you haven’t heard…. he’s a genius)
Belichick is on to 2016 and so am I, the Superbowl is in a couple weeks, and I don’t really care who wins. My thoughts are that Denver will get embarrassed on the biggest stage once again, but I’m really starting to be rubbed the wrong way by Cam Newton’s antics and attitude, so it wouldn’t bother me if they called the game at 0-0 after 40 over times and declared both teams losers.
Bottom line is I’ll always be a Patriots fan, I was a fan when they couldn’t play their way out of a wet paper bag, and this year’s team played their asses off, overcame most of their injuries and came up short. Hell there’s 28 teams that didn’t do as good as the Patriots did! I WANT TO THANK THE 2015 PATRIOTS AND THE STAFF FOR A GREAT SEASON!! AND WISHING THEM ALL THE BEST IN 2016!! #GOPATS
Brady vs. Manning XVII, Belichick vs. Kubiak, New England’s High Powered Offense vs. Denver’s #1 Defense. Could this be “The Sheriff’s” last stand? Can Brady win in Denver? Whichever headline you choose, there is no denying that when the Patriots play the Broncos in the AFC Championship at Sports Authority Field, the world will be watching.
Earlier this season the Patriots entered Sports Authority Field a bruised and beaten team. After Ten straight victories, New England was hurting badly. Star slot receiver Julian Edelman went down with a broken foot in week 10 against the New York Giants, leaving complimentary slot receiver Danny Amendola to pick up the slack in week 11. Amendola a great slot receiver in his own right just isn’t the same dynamic player that Edelman has shown to be. None of that would matter as in week 11 against the Buffalo Bills, Amendola went down with an injury and would be on the shelf for the following week. The next game on the schedule was of course, the Denver Broncos.
To be fair, the Denver Broncos were not without injury during week 12, although some wonder if it was addition by subtraction in some respects. Peyton Manning (with a tear in the plantar fascia near his left heel) and DeMarcus Ware (bad lower back) were both on the injured list for the Nov. 29th game. Ware, a pass rushing force despite his advanced age, was sorely missed. Peyton Manning, the greatest regular season quarterback of all time, was another story completely. Despite a relatively high football acumen, Father Time has been kicking the snot out of Peyton Manning since the middle of the 2014 season, leaving him the worst rated Quarterback in the NFL. With Peyton’s injury the timing could not be better to unleash back up Quarterback, Brock Osweiler on the NFL. Brocks handled himself well a week prior against the Chicago Bears and look to be a possible upgrade over the declining Manning.
Needless to say neither team that played on Nov. 29th was at their best but Brady particularly was hampered by the loss of both Edelman and Amendola. During the game the Patriots eventually lost Dont’a Hightower and Rob Gronkowski. Due to a dropped punt, the momentum shifted and the Denver Broncos ended up outplaying the New England Patriots. Denver came away with not just the victory but ultimately the #1 seed in the AFC.
Over the season, the Broncos defense bulked back up to full force with DeMarcus Ware’s return. Due to a poor performance coupled with a low-grade strain to the medial collateral ligament of his right knee, Brock Osweiler was replaced with Peyton Manning in the second half of week 17’s game against the San Diego Chargers. Manning proved to be serviceable and Broncos nation quickly welcomed him back with open arms and abandoned the Brock Osweiler experiment.
As the playoffs began, the reigning, defending Super Bowl Champions were excited to have back Julian Edelman who finally took the field again for the first time since his week 10 injury. With Edelman back and much of the banged up defense looking healthy once again, the Patriots regained their winning ways by defeating Kansas City in the Divisional Championship. After the victory over the Chiefs, New England truly looked whole again.
On January 24th, the New England Patriots led by Tom Brady will take on the Denver Broncos in Denver’s own backyard. The Patriots have a 2-6 record in Denver, only defeating teams led by Danny Kanell and Tim Tebow. Rest assured, the loss from November 29th still stings both Tom Brady and the rest of his brood. Not only did that loss come from dropping a two score lead, not only did the Broncos end their undefeated streak but this was the game that ultimately decided where the AFC championship would be played.
Comparing this game to any other meeting is a short sighted attempt at siphoning past glory. Whereas Tom Brady is still at the top of his game, Peyton Manning could be suiting up for his last game. Manning is a shell of the great quarterback that he once was. Gone are the days of the long concise pass as he is now content handing the ball off and the occasional short passes. That is why whatever silly superlative you give this game is meaningless. This isn’t Brady vs. Manning XVII; this is the New England Patriots vs. The Denver Broncos.
Many feel the Denver Broncos are the underdogs going into this game, a fact that can’t be argued. The New England Patriots are the better balanced team and have more momentum on their side due to a far more impressive victory last weekend over a healthier opponent. The Denver Broncos do, however, have their home fans in their back pocket, an advantage that can’t be overlooked or denied. The Broncos have even gone as far as to only sell AFC Championship tickets to customers living in Denver. It’s a smart tactic that reeks of cowardice.
Denver will try every possible angle to stop the New England Patriots from reaching their goal of Super Bowl 50 and becoming the first back to back Super Bowl Champions since they accomplished the same feat in 2003/2004. In the end, it won’t be enough. The New England Patriots are laser focused and plan to right a wrong that happened more than two months ago; Beat Denver, in Denver.
We just passed the one year anniversary of the NFL trying to railroad the Patriots immediately following the AFC Championship game. This just woke up The Boogie Man, and really pissed him off. Not only did the Patriots send Russell Wilson and the Seahawks to a swift but painful death last February in Phoenix, but they started the year murdering everyone in their path soon after, including the NFL in court. It caused the Brady and the rest of the Patriots organization to begin their ‘Scorched Earth Tour’ against the rest of the NFL and the Dark Lord, Roger Goodell. Through multiple season ending injuries on both sides of the ball, we’re back in the AFC Championship game. They should rename this game to the Patriots versus “Some Grab Ass Team” in the AFC. It has come to that right? Is it only fitting we get to hammer the final nail in the Peyton Manning coffin? Perhaps. I am not a Manning hater, and really never have been. Sure he throws more guys under the bus than most executives. Yes, he had HGH injected probably directly into his forehead. Yes, his playoff record is subpar and he has been emasculated by Belichick and Brady throughout his career. But I respect the way the guy plays the game and he had a hell of a run. He looks old. He reminds me of the guy rocking tube socks and New Balance sneakers in the gym with shorts that go right to mid-thigh or so. He also wears shirts in the pool and that is a known fact. Google it if you don’t believe me. So here we are at Brady vs. Manning XVII. I’ve watched every match up and there have been some heartaches, but more often than not, it ends with a Manning Face and TB12 going into “Psycho Tom” mode. There are two roads which lead to destiny in this one. Number one is Manning making it to the Super Bowl, just like Elway, and winning it all and retiring. The other, and more probable, is Evil Goodell handing Brady the Lombardi Trophy in Santa Clara in just over two weeks.
How Denver Wins: Denver needs to keep Brady off the field and control the clock. CJ Anderson and Ronnie Hillman gashed the Patriots run defense late in the game during the week ten match up. However, Donta Hightower left that game with a knee injury and the defense suffered massively. Guys like Thomas, Sanders, and Norwood need to catch the ball and create separation from man coverage. They were able to do that effectively in week ten, especially Sanders who torched the Patriots for close to a buck fifty in receiving. Belichick likes to take what teams do best away, so that will most likely be the running game. He is going to dare Manning to throw the ball deep and outside the numbers. Now Manning’s arm resembles Johnny Damon’s thus far and would most likely be picked off by members of the New England Liberty expansion LFL franchise, but can he dig into the fountain of youth (a.k.a. Mrs. Manning’s weekly HGH deliveries) and start firing darts all over the field? I am in the minority here when I think Manning can muster up enough plays to actually win this game with his arm. The defense also has to play press coverage and not give guys like Edelman and Gronk a free release off the line. This sets up those crossing routes that have murdered teams for years. Can the linebackers line up and cover guys like James White coming out of the backfield? Is Chris Harris’ shoulder being held together by spit and duct tape? In plain English, Denver has to do a lot more than New England does, and hope for a few breaks to win this game. It is a very probable scenario as well.
How New England Wins: The formula here is very simple. They need to stop the run and force Manning into bad throws. His noodle arm isn’t what it used to be, but his decision making this year has been subpar, regardless of the injuries he may or may not have had. You also can’t give Mr. Biceps Ed Hochuli the chance to throw some phantom flag late in the game. We had some brutal PI and holding calls late in the game which killed drives and extended them for Denver in week ten. You’re a fool if you don’t think the NFL and Evil Goodell wants to see Denver and Manning back in the Super Bowl. So the Patriots have to play disciplined football and move the chains on third down. Their third down conversion percentage in the first meeting resembled the drunk guy at the bar hitting on every girl. They just couldn’t’ close. Guys like Edelman and Gronkowski are both going to play huge factors in this game, but I’m a big James White guy this week. I think McDaniels will put him into situations where he can exploit some of the big mouth Denver linebackers in space. Maybe we see JoJo LaFell come back from the dead? He has been off in some alternate universe for a majority of the year. The Patriots just need to play mistake free football and keep the game out of the hands of the referees. Stuff the run, stack the box, and keep the chains moving. Now that may sound like the title to some cheesy porno, but in reality, it is the recipe for victory in Denver.
Who Wins and Why: I picked Denver to win it all in my preseason predictions not knowing how bad Manning would be or how good Brady and the Patriots would be. However, reality kicked in and we saw where the roads have lead both quarterbacks. Brady is playing at an all-time high and Manning was the worst rated quarterback in football. Denver’s defense is far better than New England’s, especially on the back end. Guys like Logan Ryan and Hicks need a repeat performance of what they did in week ten. Edelman and Amendola were both missing in action for the first meeting between these two teams, but so was DeMarcus Ware for Denver. I think the game is a lot closer than most people think, but the Patriots pull it out by four points. I like the Patriots 27-23 in a tight one.
Side Notes: Tom Brady recently opened up his TB12 store for consumers. Not only can you buy the supplements that Tom Brady takes that turns him into the superhuman he is, but you can also purchase all of his TB12 apparel. He just became the richest man in history and many New England citizens just stepped up their style game. But let’s be honest, if Tom Brady told me gasoline was healthy for me, I’d say premium or unleaded with no questions asked. He wants me to wear my clothes inside out, call me Punky Brewster and like it. I’m going to jump into Rob Gronkowski’s Time Machine and see you all on Sunday.
Patriot fans had mixed emotions as the hated Pittsburgh Steelers played the arch-enemy Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning. Who to root for? That was the issue. Pittsburgh wins and the Pats play one more game at Gillette. Denver wins and the historic Brady-Manning debate begins again.
And The Winner Is…True Football Fans
With Denver’s late comeback win over the Steelers, it’s on to Sport Authority Field at Mile High. C’mon now, admit it. The thought of one more Manning – Brady battle is intriguing. This is it…the probable last chance for these two great QB’s playing in a crucial play-off game…just one step from the Super Bowl. Both are approaching the end of their football journey, one with a whimper (Manning) and the other with the roar of a lion (Brady).
Have the reports of Peyton’s demise been exaggerated
Can Brady, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s evil villain, once again defeat America’s favorite pizza/insurance/ESPN etc, etc, etc spokesperson
Is the home field advantage enough to propel Denver, a flawed team, into the awaiting arms of Arizona or Carolina
Will the emotional return of Julian Edelman for a second game carry over and allow the weak offensive line of New England to actually keep Brady upright long enough to use his weapons in victory.
More Questions Than Answers
Unlike the NFC contest between the clear-cut favorites, Arizona Cardinals & Carolina Panthers, this AFC duel is somewhat surprising. Most “experts” raved about the Kansas City Chiefs and Pittsburgh Steelers (who backed in when the J-E-T-S choked) as the “hot” picks as the play-offs got underway.
KC had won 11 straight when they travelled to Gillette and were pummeled by New England. Pittsburgh overcame adversity and headed to the Mile High City after a back-yard brawl in Cincinnati, to lead for most of the game before falling to the Manning led Broncos.
The Patriots and Broncos both stumbled into the bye-week with a sigh of relief. Denver was debating who their QB would be, while New England was hoping their long list of critical injuries to key players would heal enough to field a representative play-off team.
Yet here they stand, still with serious questions, on the precipice of the AFC Championship Game. Denver, a late Sunday victor, ready to prove they have a great defense that can carry them to Super Bowl 50 despite the health of their eventual Hall-Of-Fame QB…and New England, the team other team’s fans love to hate, trying to once again rise above the noise and win their 5th ring during the Brady-Belichick era.
This Week In The Media
All week leading up to Sunday you will read about the history of these two teams and their great QB’s. There will be a plethora of articles filled with facts and opinions (probably write one myself) on why New England/Denver should/will win and go on to glory in the 2015/2016 Super Bowl. Meanwhile…..
Follow me on Twitter @SnowdonBob
…and enjoy the banter. On Sunday, January 24th at about 6:30 PM the AFC questions will be answered and fans will be either on the edge of their seat, or grumbling at the dog, while waiting to see who the opponent will be from the NFC.
The last time the Patriots played them, New England came out on the losing end. They weren’t supposed to be the Patriot’s opponents in the divisional round. Out of every possible outcome, this match up was the one that was least favorable. New England can’t sleep on this team. The Patriots have had a bye week but their opponents are still looked at as the scrappy team that will possibly rid the playoffs of the “hated” New England franchise.
Do you recognize these statements? These were things said by many NFL analysts and pundits during the 2015 playoff run, but obviously instead of referencing the Kansas City Chiefs they were clearly talking about the Baltimore Ravens. Both the Baltimore Ravens and Kansas City style of play is very different. Last year Baltimore’s quarterback Joe Flacco, although capable of the run was mostly known as a deep ball, pocket passer. The somewhat reliable but inconsistent Alex Smith went all of last season without a passing touchdown and can be a running threat. Kansas City has more of a complete defense where as last year’s Ravens had a subpar secondary. What makes both playoff scenarios so completely different yet so similar? Beyond the obvious, lose and your season is done, the Kansas City Chiefs are the team that the Patriots NEED to face in order to be successful in the postseason.
In football, statistics and past performance often mean little when a team can pull it together and play a balanced game. Last year’s Ravens team was a tough and gritty team which constantly stayed ahead of the Patriots and for most of the divisional playoff game, seemed unstoppable. Hall of Fame quarterback, Tom Brady, was able to battle back and help bring his team to victory, after two fourteen point deficits. Beating a team like the Ravens showed that the Patriots were ready for the Super Bowl regardless of the opponent. It was that particular show of determination and resiliency that gave insight to the Championship team the 2014 New England Patriots would eventually rise up to become.
This Saturday, the reigning, defending Super Bowl Champions must rise to the occasion once more. The Kansas City Chiefs, as previously stated, are not the Baltimore Ravens of last year. The Chiefs are currently riding high on an 11 game winning streak leaving their five game losing streak feeling as though it were another season entirely. The last time these two teams met seems like a life time ago but rest assured it wasn’t. The famed Arrowhead loss of last year allowed the 2014 Patriots to hit rock bottom. The New England Patriots were beaten, humiliated and left for dead. No matter how special winning last year’s Super Bowl was it doesn’t erase the events of September 29th, 2014 and the horrible fit of despair that day left in each player on that roster. If this year was meant to be the “Revenge Tour” of sorts for Tom Brady and the New England Patriots this is the team they must defeat. The Chiefs annihilation of the 2014 Patriots is an albatross from last year much like the joke that became Deflategate. Call it destiny or coincidence but for things to have played out like they have thus far one thing’s for certain, this is where the Patriots need to be.
Had New England gained the first seed they would be challenging a bruised, broken and battered Steelers Team. No this is not the same Pittsburgh team from week one, it would have left no real way to find out what the Patriots were truly made of. The Bengals and the Texans both showed that they were begging for a reason to meltdown. Playing “tomato cans” does not enrich your chances for further offseason success, playing legitimate contenders does. Kansas City is the only AFC team that presents a real significant challenge and a chance to show just how resilient the 2015 Patriots can be. Yes, if the Patriots make it past the Chiefs they still (more than likely) have Denver at their home field to deal with; on paper that is no easy task. Let’s be honest, if the Patriots have both their health and were able to display the resolve to hold off a team steamrolling along like the Kansas City Chiefs, do the inconsistent Denver Broncos truly present that big of a hurdle?
Like last year, this game means something much more than just advancement in the playoffs. With Kansas City’s star wide receiver Jeremy Maclin injured, the Patriot’s front seven have the chance to be the difference maker. The Patriot’s offense, if healthier than we are led to believe, can make a statement this Saturday. How the Patriots handle the Kansas City Chiefs will tell us everything we need to know about this team. Other than a potential Super Bowl, this divisional playoff game is the most important game of the Patriot’s season, there is no doubt in the mind of Patriot Nation that they will prevail.
After watching the first round of the 2015 Season Play-Offs, one thing resonates loud and clear…bitter rivals will do anything they can get away with to win!
So, why are we hearing absolutely nothing from the Commissioner of the NFL, Roger Goodell? After the blatant issues that occurred in Cincinnati Saturday you would expect some sort of investigation announcement first thing Monday morning…but the silence is deafening.
The only thing the NFL has announced is Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict has been suspended without pay for the first three games of the 2016 regular season. Meanwhile, there has been no mention of a coach pulling a players hair and another going on the field for no reason other than to incite players.
Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and The Officials Guilty
This was a case where everyone at the game left with a smell that wasn’t very pleasant…including the fans.
Both Head Coaches Should Be Fined/Suspended
In the world of professional sports the buck stops at the top. In an NFL game that is the Head Coach, who is responsible for the actions of his underlings AND the NFL Commissioner, who is responsible for being certain the officials enforce the rules equitably in all games. In Saturday’s game they all fell down on the job.
Cincinnati continues to ignore the fact that they put players on
their roster who will not control their emotions and have no realization of how their actions affect the game. On top of that, the Bengals Head Coach, Marvin Lewis won’t take control of the situation.
Lewis’ reaction: “once they go across that line, there’s not much I can do from there, unless I go out on the field, which I’m not allowed to.”
2. Pittsburgh Head Coach Mike Tomlin set the example for his coaches in 2013 when he stepped on the field right in the way of Jacoby Jones of the Baltimore Ravens as he ran up the sidelines on a kick-off return. For the infraction Tomlin was fined $100,000
So, why would a member of his coaching staff refrain from going on the field of a highly volatile game and inflame things to a higher degree? Joey Porter did just that…and got away with it. He may ultimately be fined, but his actions resulted in a 15 yard penalty against Adam Jones (deserved) and nothing against the Steelers. The result, a chip-shot field goal giving the Steelers an improbably win.
If the officials had enforced the rule properly there would have been a 15 yard penalty against Porter and a 15 yarder against Jones, offsetting each other and resulting in a 50 yard Field Goal attempt.
In case you are questioning whether Porter did anything wrong, here’s the rule:
Article I, section 8: Non-player personnel of a club (e.g., management personnel, coaches, trainers, equipment men) are prohibited from making unnecessary physical contact with or directing abusive, threatening, or insulting language or gestures at opponents, game officials, or representatives of the League. The penalty: 15 yards.
No One Was Surprised
The game came as advertised, with the bitter rivalry continuing to effect the emotions on both sides. The officials tried to keep the game under control, but it was an impossible task. You have to wonder if Commissioner Goodell had talked to both owners prior to the game with a warning of strong consequences for misbehavior, whether things could have kept under control.
The focus on Julian Edelman’s return to the Patriots line-up has rightfully been the center of attention since the season ended with the New England offense looking more like the Cleveland Browns than the juggernaut that started the season. His week 10 broken foot against the Giants crippled not only the player, but the entire Patriots offense.
Why Edelman’s Return Is So Critical
There are many reasons why his return will help rejuvenate a stagnant Patriot offense.
He is, by a wide margin, the man Tom Brady trusts most (my apologies to Rob Gronkowski) to be in the right spot at the right time
He seldom drops a pass and often makes the hard catch look easy
When Edelman is in, defenses have to adjust, giving others – like Gronkowski – more space to make the catch
The weakest part of the New England offense, the offensive line, is exposed less with Edelman playing because Brady has that security blanket available for his quick release. No one else filled that role during his absence. Danny Amendola did his best, but it wasn’t quite good enough.
Don’t underestimate the importance of #4. The bye-week does give time for the big guys up front to rest. However, at it’s best, this season it was mediocre…even when rested.
The return of Edelman alone is not a cure-all. Although it should make a huge difference on offense, the defense needs to get back to the dominant group that intimidated QBs throughout the league. The return to health of some key defensive players should take a lot of pressure off the offense, allowing wins while falling short of scoring 30+ points a game.
Remember three years ago when we were all questioning Hightower’s ability to diagnose offenses and actually make the big play? As we’ve seen over the past two seasons, he has dispelled any doubt…he was a great 1st round draft pick (25th overall) in 2012!
Arguably the most valuable player on the defense, Hightower has played injured for a while now…and it has shown with his hesitancy on the field. Hopefully this bye-week gets him confident that he is OK and he’ll return the All-Pro that he was prior to getting banged up.
When Hightower got injured Jones production suffered, despite the help he got from Jamie Collins and Jaball Sheard. At one point it felt like Jones was going to smash all Patriot sack records, but by seasons end he had an injured toe and was struggling to get to the QB. The two weeks off (he sat the last game) should re-energize his motor and the combination of Jones, Hightower, Sheard, Collins, Akiem Hicks, Malcom Brown and, old faithful, Rob Ninkovich will have opposing teams scratching their head when they have the ball.
…And Let’s Not Forget
If Edelman hadn’t been out Amendola wouldn’t have played (injury) at the end. No one can ever question his toughness to me. Here’s hoping fans appreciate how much he has done this year, beside building a car port in an upper class area of Rhode Island.The trio of Gronkowski, Edelman, Amendola along with James White, Brandon LaFell (yes, as 4th receiver), Steven Jackson and Keshawn Martin should keep defenses on their heels, cutting back on the pressure being put on Brady.
No, he’s not an afterthought. When he limped off the field in Miami, Patriot’s Nation held their collective breath and looked to the sky. Why, oh why, was he even playing? Despite the (high?) ankle sprain sustained on a low hit (no penalty?) by arguably the dirtiest player in the NFL (Ndamukong Suh) you know #12 will be on the field doing anything it takes to win.
…And No More Injuries, Please!
It seems every day something new pops up on the injury front. Whether it was Chandler Jones last week or Nate Ebner Thursday, enough is enough.
In case you forgot, the non-playing Injured Reserve list for the Patriots includes these names we were counting on to help get to Super Bowl 50:
Nate Solder & Ryan Wendell from the OL
Running backs Dion Lewis (sigh) & LeGarrette Blount plus FB James Develin
Oft injured DL Dominique Easley
There are more, but those six were key players.
So, everyone else, please, stay healthy for the 1st real game of the season, January 16 at Foxborough…as the next step to ring #5 commences.
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