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Don't Cry For Me, Patriots Nation
September 9, 2008 - John Whittaker
Fat Guy Trophy Update
The Whitless Wonder is off to a running start in the Race for the Fat Guy Trophy with a 33-4 record in Week 1, with Finn close behind at 31-6.
Teddy and Sir Cumference are tied for third at 28-9, and Simon Teska's bringing up the rear at 26-11. Obviously, Simon is not nearly fat enough to keep up - start eating, son! Simon did pick his share of upsets, but I think he's finding out that favorites are favorites for a reason.
As for my lucky Week 1 results, I'm obviously pleased. I really thought Week 1 would trip me up worse than it did, but Baltimore and Carolina panned out, and other than West Virginia losing, the college games went pretty much as planned.
West Virginia's loss to East Carolina tripped up everyone, as did Indianapolis' loss to the Bears. Sir Cumference lost out on a couple of upset specials -- Nevada beating Texas Tech being the notable miss. The Whitless Wonder correctly drilled Carolina over San Diego -- I also made that gutsy pick in an eliminator pool. Props to me!
On the down side, I ripped on the Bills' chances on Sunday in the blog, but picked them in the picks. And, I didn't make a pick in the Tampa Bay/New Orleans game, so I gave myself the loser of that game.
Anyway, here are the games we're picking this week.
Kansas at South Florida
Southern Cal vs. Ohio State
Georgia at South Carolina
Oklahoma at Washington
Missouri vs. Nevada
LSU vs. North Texas
Texas vs. Arkansas
Auburn at Mississippi State
Wisconsin at Fresno State
Alabama vs. Western Kentucky
Texas Tech vs. SMU
East Carolina at Tulane
Arizona State vs. UNLV
Oregon at Purdue
Penn State at Syracuse
BYU vs. UCLA
Utah at Utah State
California at Maryland
Illinois vs. Louisiana-Lafayette
Chicago at Carolina,
Tennessee at Cincinnati
Green Bay at Detroit,
Buffalo at Jacksonville
Oakland at Kansas City
Indianapolis at Minnesota
N.Y. Giants at St. Louis
New Orleans at Washington
San Francisco at Seattle
Atlanta at Tampa Bay
Miami at Arizona
San Diego at Denver
Baltimore at Houston
New England at N.Y. Jets
Pittsburgh at Cleveland
Philadelphia at Dallas
I'm done mourning.
Unlike a lot of Patriots fans, I can't stand here and proclaim the 2008 season over just because Tom Brady's season is over.
There are 15 more Patriots games left this season, and it doesn't do any good to sit here and cry over one guy's injury. Brady is a one-of-a-kind football player, arguably the best at his position and one of the top 10 quarterbacks ever to throw a spiral. He's fun to watch, and you know with Brady under center that the Pats are never out of a game. You know he'll find a way to pull a game out.
But, I'm here to tell you, Brady's injury doesn't kill the Pats season. Not by a long shot. It just removes the margin for error.
Here are five reasons why the Pats can still make the playoffs this season.
1. Scott Zolak Could Be Our Quarterback. The Pats still have all the necessary complimentary pieces of one of the league's best offenses. They still line up Randy Moss and Wes Welker at wide receiver, the three-headed Maroney-Faulk-Morris running back monster, a solid offensive line and the oft-injured Ben Watson at tight end. There are enough pieces here for Matt Cassel to at least eke out 17-20 points a week. Other players will have to step up and make plays to help the young guy out. It happened in 2001 when Drew Bledsoe got hurt and the untested Brady stepped in. It can happen in 2008.
2. An Easy Schedule. The Pats play a veritable poo-poo platter of a 2008 schedule. Have you seen the schedule yet? The Jets, Dolphins and Bills twice, the Raiders and the NFC West crap-a-thon of the 49ers, Cardinals, Rams and Seahawks. That's 11 winnable games right there. I know, I know. Brett Favre's with the Jets. The Dolphins looked good. The Bills are improved. They're still the Jets, Dolphins and Bills. They're not unbeatable. Jim Kelly, Dan Marino and Joe Namath aren't walking through that tunnel. Until they do, those teams are eminently beatable. The Chargers, Colts, Broncos and Steelers are tough games I don't expect to win. The Pats could easily, with decent effort, be able to win at least 10 games. That should be good enough to make the playoffs this year.
3. The Heart Of The Pats Is Bruschi. As good as Brady is, he's not the absolute heart of the team. That still lies with the defense and Tedy Bruschi. Between Bruschi and Rodney Harrison, the defense will not let this team quit on the season. Remember the movie The Program? The season didn't end for ECU when Joe Kane, the quarterback played by the immortal Craig Sheffler, went into rehab. It took a hit when Alvin Mack, the linebacker, broke his leg and the defense turned into a lifeless bunch of wussies. As long as Bruschi stays healthy, this team will still have its backbone.
4. The Blueprint. This will be the ultimate test of the genius known as Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli. Can the system roll on without Brady? Can Belichick make adjustments to his personnel? A few years ago, when the team was wrecked by injuries, Troy Brown made the switch from wide receiver to cornerback, and people said it was a sign of how the Patriots system puts players in a position to succeed. Has the Pats success been all about Brady's brilliance or a combination of a system perfectly suited to Brady?
Take a look back at 2001. The Patriots were the epitome of team -- coming as a team rather than being introduced as individuals, the defense picking up the offense if Brady couldn't move the ball, the special teams chipping in with the occasional touchdown. Now, the offense glosses over a lot of blemishes. If they're wise, the Pats will get back to fundamental football. The three sides of winning football -- offense, defense and special teams -- will each make plays and the Pats will make it through 2008 unscathed.
5. The Us Against The World Factor. Sometimes, there's nothing better than being able to play the Nobody Believed In Us Card, which the Pats haven't been able to play in about eight years. When you're scoring 100 points a game, everybody believes in you. Now, there are no expectations. All the talking heads are writing the Pats' obituary. Opposing teams aren't counting the Patriots as a loss on the schedule anymore. If ever there was a time for a team to come together against adversity, it's now.
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