We are starting to enter the point of the season where we really have to wonder if the New England Patriots are going to be one of the great teams of all-time. What they are doing is simply amazing.
Tom Brady has even gotten to the point where he believes that everything he throws into the air will be caught. Typically, you would chastise Brady for a number of those throws if Randy Moss were not the receiver on the other end.
We talked about this on Football Night in America, but it seems like Brady is challenging himself on each throw. As if he is saying, "Alright, Randy, you caught that one, but how about this one?"
The most amazing catch Moss made in the Patriots' 49-28 victory over Miami on Sunday was the one he caught on his shoulder, mainly because Moss caught it so cleanly, as if the ball was attached to Velcro. That has to be so demoralizing to the other team knowing you can double-cover Moss and he will still come up with the ball.
Not only that, but the Patriots seem to turn it on and off, almost at will. They were so in control at halftime of the Dolphins game that you figured Brady already had showered and was preparing for his postgame press conference. When the Dolphins started to come back against the Patriots and backup Matt Cassel, Brady probably said to himself, "Are you serious?" Then he went back in and produced a touchdown in five plays, killing the Dolphins' momentum. Just when you thought Miami could make some plays and get back in the game, Brady led the Patriots down the field at will to score.
It's not just teams like the lowly Dolphins that New England is pounding. The Patriots did the same thing to the Cowboys. I must admit that after watching the tape of the Dallas game, the Cowboys are a little better than I originally thought. They handled the Patriots' offensive line pretty well and stuffed the run. The Cowboys, to me, are the clear-cut favorite in the NFC. But even they were no match for the Patriots.
Brady does not get enough credit for the way he orchestrates the offense from the line of scrimmage. Everybody knows about Peyton Manning and his gesticulations with his flailing arms, but Brady is just as in control at the line of scrimmage. Their mastery of the game separates these two quarterbacks from the rest of the pack.
Brady was able to maneuver his way through the Cowboys with third-string running back Kevin Faulk. Although with what the Patriots are doing on offense, Faulk might be a better fit than either Laurence Maroney or backup Sammie Morris. Faulk is a good blocker and the team's best receiver out of the backfield, so the losses of Maroney and Morris haven't been that great. The bigger loss was that of tight end Ben Watson, who missed most of the Cowboys game and all of Sunday's game at Miami.
He caught a pair of touchdown passes against the Dolphins, but the play he made on a touchdown against the Cowboys showed how valuable he can be. Dallas doubled Moss and Welker as the Cowboys rushed five. Despite that, Welker was able to split the defenders and score. That illustrates just how tough it is to defend these guys. Play it safe, and Brady will pick you apart. Blitz, and you risk a big play, even if you have them double-teamed.
I don't think the Patriots played anywhere close to a perfect game against the Cowboys, yet they scored 48 points against a previously undefeated team on the road. They easily could have scored 60, despite being without their starting running back and tight end. If they hadn't subbed in Cassel against the Dolphins, who knows how many points they could have scored. Robert Kraft might have to buy an NBA scoreboard.
The defense is a little bit older, but these guys are playing well. The reliable Mike Vrabel, Teddy Bruschi and Adalius Thomas are all a little older, and you wonder how long they are going to hold up. But there is a lot of depth on this team.
Nose tackle Vince Wilfork and defensive end Ty Warren are two of the best linemen in the league. One of the most underrated is defensive end Jarvis Green. You also have a pair of former Chargers, Junior Seau and Rodney Harrison, who are still playing really well. It seems like I have been covering Seau for 20 years, as he entered the league in 1990 -- two years after I retired. But the key for him is that he doesn't have to play every down, and he can come in and make a few big plays.
The key to the defense is Asante Samuel, who is the most indispensable guy on the field outside of Brady. The Patriots have proved they can win without Maroney and Richard Seymour, but Samuel is the most valuable player on that defense. Samuel gives the Patriots a high-end cover guy who understands coach Bill Belichick's philosophy.
The hurdle for the Patriots is one of the toughest AFCs I've seen in a long time. The Colts, Steelers, Jaguars and Chargers are all really good. And the Patriots still have dates with the Colts and Steelers left on their schedule. But one thing playing in the Patriots' favor is that they will have no competition left in the AFC East, which gives them a bit of an edge. They almost have bye weeks against division opponents.
If the Patriots can beat the Colts in Indy, then you have to start having serious conversations about this being the greatest team of all-time, or at least of the salary-cap era. Comparing teams of different eras is hard, because you have to give credit to some of the deep teams that the Steelers and 49ers had. I have for a long time said the 49ers second team of the 1980s could have beaten 80 percent of the league.