I’VE GOT SUPER BOWL FEVER!……. AGAIN!
The roller coaster ride that is the Super Bowl hopes of New England Patriots fans and media, is on the ascend, and once again we have the former pretenders to the throne- namely the Houston Texans- to thank. In case you need a review, it actually started after the Pats’ week 14, 42-14 nationally televised trouncing of Houston. It took a severe nosedive the following week after the home 41-34 loss to the 49ers, and then, once again, began the previously mentioned climb, after the Pats defeated Miami and the Texans completed their fall from the top spot with a home loss to the Colts in week 17.
I find it interesting that we are so quick to measure the Patriots for their Super Bowl rings if they get that opening bye (which is what they got as the result of the Houston “collapse”), but are quite quick to throw dirt on their chances should they have to play during wild card weekend. My point is, essentially, if we believe our team is talented enough to win the whole thing, why are we so afraid to see them play one extra game? I get it. Historically the Pats have never won the Super Bowl when they’ve had to play a wild card game (which is not to imply that a bye guarantees anything) and some teams (like the Giants) have gotten healthy late and rolled though the post season. So why can’t the Patriots do that?
Well, for one thing they’re not healthy but could very well be in another week or so. They have some very key, but not necessariy big name people hurting, who if allowed to some time to recuperate, could make a significant difference. Obviously we liked to see both “Gronk” and Aaron Hernandez at their best- especially Gronkowski. Even one handed (so to speak) he gave Miami something to think about, and just by being there, made Hernandez more effective. There are also defensive backs Aqib Taleb and Alfonzo Dennard in need of healing, as well as O-Linemen Logan Mankins and Dan Connolly, both of whom have been plagued by injuries for an extended stretch of the season.
But of all the sore bodies on their roster, the one I’m most concerned about right now is DL/Lb Rob Ninkovich. The 6’2″, 260 pound Ninkovish, who was a 7th round New Orleans Saints pick signed by the Pats after being released by both the Saints and Dolphins, has developed into a pressure defender who, if not making the play himself, is setting up a teammate to make the big play. He ended the season with 58 tackles, 8 sacks, and 5 forced fumbles, with at least one of those fumbles coming on the Patriots’ own one yard line. Although the 6’5″, 250 pound Trevor Scott (3 sacks) has played well in his place, I am hoping the reports that Ninkovish will be ready January 13th are true.
Now that we know that the Pats we’ll be hosting Houston next Sunday at Gillette, we’ve seen “The Fever” spike yet again. Although I personally would have liked to have seen them take on the Colts, everyone else (especially the Boston Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy) seems quite happy that the Texans are coming to town. This inspite of the fact that Shaughnessy was one of a great many Boston media types who was quick to draw potential parallels with 2010, when the Pats slammed the Jets by over 40 points on a Monday night in December, only to suffer a home playoff loss to them a month later. They were convinced that a return match would again end badly for New England and should be avoided. Granted, at the time the prospect of the Texans falling so badly out of the number one seed seemed unlikely, and that a rematch would be in Houston, likely after a potential wild card contest for the Pats.
But still, to be so dismissive of the Texans troubles me. Although Coach Bill, TB12, Wilfork (aka “The Beast of the East”), and the rest of the Pats are all saying the right things, I’m still concerned that they’ll be looking past this weekend, to the following one when they will take on the Ravens at home in a rematch of last years AFC Championship game. Having said all that, I do expect the Patriots to win, it just won’t be easy. After all, Tom Brady is not Andy Dalton, and will deliver in a way Dalton could not. I’m looking for something in the 10 point range, maybe 27-17. I’m not sure I’m predicting a Ravens upset of Denver, or justing hoping for one. The result of the upset would mean another home game for New England, but you know what they say about being careful about what you wish for…. Stay tuned.
Featured image courtesy of: Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports
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