Posted on: April 4, 2011 1:31 pm
Edited on: April 5, 2011 7:25 am
Posted by Josh Katzowitz
Eye on Football's playing doctor for every NFL team with our Offseason Check-ups .
The Patriots were probably the best team in football last season, compiling a 14-2 record before surprisingly losing to the Jets in the second round of the playoffs. Let’s see what New England had: Outstanding QB, check. Pretty good running game, check. A good enough offensive line and wide receiving corps, yes. A rock-solid defense, um, no.
The team had its problems on defense – which is talented but oh so young – but the wizardry of Brady who knows coach Bill Belichick’s system so well overcame most of those defensive hiccups. The Patriots haven’t had a losing season this century, so whatever constructive criticism that follows in this piece doesn’t suggest that the Patriots suddenly will struggle to win games. With Belichick, that simply doesn’t happen very often (unless, ahem, he’s donning the headset in Cleveland).
Recent unsuccessful playoff runs
A ridiculous statistic for you: the Patriots haven’t won a playoff game since the 2007 AFC championship game. That’s right, since that undefeated New England squad lost the Super Bowl to the Giants, the Ravens in the 2009 playoffs and the Jets in 2010 – all three of those were considered upsets, as well.
Doesn’t matter that New England has an annual chokehold on the AFC East (though New York is beginning to threaten that dominance), the Patriots can’t get anywhere in the playoffs. They haven’t won a Super Bowl in six years. So, what’s the problem?
1. Wide Receiver
Getting rid of Randy Moss probably was the right call for New England, but when the Patriots sent him away, they also lost their downfield threat. You might argue that Moss’ skills are in decline – and the Titans would DEFINITELY say that – but he’s still quite a long-ball receiver. Wes Welker is one of the best slot receivers in the game, Deion Branch had a nice comeback year and New England’s young tight ends are really solid. But a Moss-like receiver would be welcome.
2. More DL depth
Mike Wright and Ron Brace missed a combined nine regular-season games last season before injuries forced them to the Injured Reserve lists while Ty Warren missed the entire year, and a trio of rookies (two of whom were undrafted) were forced to step in and replace them. What the Patriots need in this year’s draft is a pass rusher off the edge, and since they have a plethora of draft picks, they could certainly try to trade up and find one. Wright, with 5.5 sacks, was the team leader, and following behind him were LBs Tully Banta-Cain and Rob Ninkovich. They need some help on the DL, though newly-signed Marcus Stroud could certainly ease some of that burden.
3. Better secondary play
Devin McCourtey had a strong rookie season, leading the team with seven interceptions and Leigh Bodden – who missed all of last year – will be a definite upgrade over Kyle Arrington. Pat Chung is solid at the SS spot, but FS Brandon Meriweather wasn’t very good last season (how he made the Pro Bowl is baffling). It would not be a surprise if New England tries to replace him.
The Patriots obviously have some corrections that need to be made. But this franchise has been the best – and most feared – in the NFL since Belichick took over (though Rex Ryan absolutely will NOT kiss his rings), and he doesn’t hesitate to get rid of loyal Patriots who he feels can’t help them anymore (I’m looking at you Richard Seymour, Adam Vinatieri, et al). The Patriots will continue to battle with the Jets for AFC East dominance, but like usual, New England will be a preseason favorite to win the Super Bowl.
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Tags: Adam Vinatieri, Bill Belichick, Brandon Meriweather, Deion Branch, Devin McCourtey, Kyle Arrington, Leigh Bodden, Marcus Stroud, Mike Wright, New England Patriots, Offseason checkup, Pat Chung, Randy Moss, Richard Seymour, Rob Ninkovich, Ron Brace, Tom Brady, Tully Banta-Cain, Ty Warren, Wes Welker
Posted on: March 9, 2011 1:56 pm
Posted on: January 13, 2011 1:24 am
Edited on: January 13, 2011 12:29 pm
Posted by Andy Benoit
CBSSports.com's patented and award-winning 7-point preview gets you ready for each and every playoff game. As an added bonus, check out our playoff podcast preview:
1. New York Jets (No. 6, AFC, 12-5) @ New England Patriots (No. 1, AFC, 14-2)
The regular season’s undisputed champion begins the final chapter for a fourth Lombardi Trophy by hosting the preseason’s self-proclaimed undisputed champion. The Jets are responsible for one of the Patriots’ two losses on the season (Week 2 at the New Meadowlands), though revenge was already administered by the Pats in that 45-3 November Monday night thumping.
Still, you can bet the Patriots will come out focused and hungry (or with something to prove or with a chip on their shoulder or whatever hollow cliché you prefer). These AFC East foes both know their opponent and, after the Jets stifled the Colt offense by refusing to blitz Peyton Manning, are capable of debuting a freshly-minted, never-before-seen gameplan for this decisive rubber match.
2. PLAYOFFS?! Watchability Ranking
On the field, the Patriots are the most interesting team in football once again. Off the field, the Jets are, so it's a near-miss Five Mora Face ranking.
3. Key Matchup to Watch: Jets run offense vs. Patriots run defense
In that Monday night thrashing, Tom Brady carved up the Jets by exploiting their iffy nickel and dime backs (Drew Coleman and Dwight Lowery). Confident and fond of his defense as he may be, Rex Ryan knows that the best way to slow Brady this time will be to keep him off the field (just like the Jets did during the second half against Manning).
You control the ball by running. The Jets stayed on the ground 38 times for 169 yards at Indianapolis. Of course, there is a considerable difference between running against the undersized Colts front seven and running against the oversized unit of the Patriots. Normally, the Patriots prefer to align Vince Wilfork in the opponent’s favorite run gap. Against the Jets, that would mean putting the “325-pounder” at left defensive end. Of course, the Jets may be less inclined to follow their usual “run to the right” formula now that tackle Damien Woody is on IR.
For matchup purposes, Bill Belichick may be tempted to put Wilfork outside so as to capitalize on the mismatch against Woody’s replacement, Wayne Hunter. Hunter is a superb athlete but he hasn’t always shown consistent raw power. However, Mike Wright and Ron Brace’s trips to injured reserve depleted New England’s depth up front. Veteran end Gerard Warren has been a decent starter alongside rotating rookies Brandon Deaderick (seventh-round pick), Kyle Love (undrafted) and Landon Cohen (undrafted), but with these men starting, the Patriots have been less variegated with their front-three looks.
If Wilfork remains at nose tackle, expect the Jets to run away from him – i.e. outside. Because tight end Dustin Keller is a glorified slot receiver (not unlike New England’s Aaron Hernandez), Brian Schottenheimer may be inclined to bring Robert Turner off the bench for more six-man offensive line formations. Even if the Jets can win in the trenches, their running backs still must make plays against the athletic Patriot linebackers. Usually Nick Mangold is at the second level to help pave a path, but Wilfork will give him more to deal with than most nose tackles.
Beating New England’s linebackers is a tall order for the Jets runners. LaDainian Tomlinson is coming off his best career playoff game, but neither he nor Shonn Greene has the quickness and elusiveness to make a beast like Jerod Mayo miss.
4. Potentially Relevant Video
For all the denigration of the Jets after the Sal Alosi episode, you might want to take a look at this seven-year old video of Bill Belichick’s crafty sideline ploy against Marvin Harrison.
5. The Jets will win if ...
Mark Sanchez (the franchise’s all-time winningest postseason quarterback, believe it or not) is more accurate than he was last week. That’s not all, of course (not even close). New York must bog down in the red zone (figure they won’t be able to prevent Brady and company from racking up yards between the 20s) and shift field position at least twice (via special teams or a forced turnover).
6. The Patriots will win if ...
Brady gets in his usual rhythm working out of the shotgun spread (a formation that naturally limits the presnap disguises that Ryan’s defense is built around).
7. Prediction: Patriots 31, Jets 20
Tags: 7PointPlayoffPreview, Benjarvus Green-Ellis, Bill Belichick, Brandon Deaderick, Damien Woody, Deion Branch, Drew Coleman, Dwight Lowery, Gerad Warren, Jerod Mayo, Kyle Love, LaDainian Tomlinson, Ladon Cohen, Mark Sanchez, Mike Wright, New England Patriots, New York Jets, Rex Ryan, Ron Brace, Sal Alosi, Shonn Greene, Tom Brady, Vince Wilfork, Wayne Hunter, Wes Welker
Posted on: November 1, 2010 3:21 am
Edited on: November 1, 2010 10:53 am
Posted by Andy Benoit
Tags: Aqib Talib, Arizona Cardinals, Asher Allen, B.J. Raji, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Brandon Chillar, Brandon Meriweather, C.J. Wilson, Charlie Weiss, Cincinnati Bengals, Clay Matthews, Dallas Cowboys, Darren McFadden, Denver Broncos, Derek Anderson, Detroit Lions, Devin McCourty, Donovan McNabb, Frank Gore, Green Bay Packers, Isaac Bruce, Jacksonville Jaguars, Jared Allen, Jason Campbell, Josh Freeman, Kansas City Chiefs, Kyle Orton, Larry Fitzgerald, Max Hall, Miami Dolphins, Mike Shanahan, Mike Wright, Minnesota Vikings, Ndamukong Suh, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, New York Jets, NFL London, Oakland Raiders, Phil Loadholt, Pittsburgh Steelers, Randy Moss, Rex Grossman, Ron Brace, Ryan Succop, San Diego Chargers, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, St. Louis Rams, Steve Weatherford, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Todd Haley, Tom Brady, Vincent Jackson, Washington Redskins
Posted on: October 30, 2010 10:25 pm
Posted by Andy Benoit
Seahawks @ Raiders
Steelers @ Saints
Tags: Aaron Smith, Brandon Mebane, Brett Favre, Brett Keisel, Bruce Gradkowski, Chaz Schilens, Chris Degeare, Deion Branch, Fred Taylor, Jabari Greer, Jordan Babineaux, Kelly Jennings, Lito Sheppard, Louis Murphy, Mike Wright, Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, Oakland Raiders, Patrick Chung, Pierre Thomas, Pittsburgh Steelers, Reggie Bush, Russell Okung, Seattle Seahawks, Tracy Porter, Walter Thurmond, Zach Miller