No, not me gloating over the fact that I declared Tom Brady the best ever, only to see him go out and toss five TDs in the first half! Oh, I could gloat. I could bask. I could even reprint some of the mail I got deriding my declaration, seeing as you all look soooo wrong one week later. I could, but I won't because it's not a fair fight, at least not this week ... sort of like the way Pats vs. Dolphins wasn't fair, either. Now that, my little friends, was some good ol' country rubbing it in!
This wasn't the NFL, it was the stuff of a 4,000-student public high school scheduled to play the local arts & science magnet. It was LSU playing Carnegie Melon. It was almost as bad as watching the 2007 Patriots playing a scab replacement team.
We all felt a jail-pounding coming. For all the trouble Miami has given New England in recent years -- particularly at home -- this year's edition comes with a new head coach, a new system, an unproven QB, and most importantly a defense that went from dominant to deeply suspect in the course of one year. You can throw out the second half. This game was so completely over, so obscenely early, it felt like Belichick was trying to pile up BCS points.
Then he sends out the scrubs for the second half for a little seasoning -– until Cassel tosses a pick. Let the kid rub some dirt on it and get back on the horse? Screw that. The evil genius sends Brady back in for another perfunctory TD-in-a-minute drive. It almost felt like a warning: "Please stay down on the canvas, because if you get back up, you get more Brady. You want to see him pass for 12 TDs? Didn't think so."
What was really interesting is Brady is still playing mad. The whole team is playing mad. In the wake of video-gate, the cheesy specter of cheating has turned them into sociopaths. They want to prove they don't need to cheat to win –- so they are on a brutal mission that doesn't include showing mercy.
Take a look at New England's points scored, YTD:
» It starts out really high: 38 points scored Weeks 1, 2, and 3.
» The scandal starts to percolate internally, externally, and the distraction causes the scoring to dip ... a measly four points! Still robust at 34 points during Weeks 4 and 5.
» Then they start to fester and snarl. Resentment fueled by shame forms a nasty little carbuncle ... and now they have a mission: Show the world that not only can the Patriots win without stealing signals, they can annihilate:
Week 6: 48 points.
Week 7: 49 points -– while sitting their QB for most of the second half!
The Miami game was so ugly, I kept thinking how happy Chris Chambers must be to get his ticket out a week earlier -– and he got traded to a city in flames.
Then consider another smiling face -- Nick Saban. Oh, he jumped off a sinking ship all right, and he had a hand in it. He went to Miami with final say over everything. That being said, the situation is so bad I'm starting to wonder if Saban actually did a great job during his brief NFL stay. These guys are 0-7. At the very least, he managed to squeeze out some wins.
You know who else is happy? Every fantasy owner who picked up Wes Welker three weeks ago –- it's not a fluke, people. I don't think this is Brandon Stokely as a third wheel with the Colts. You know, quiet for four games, loud for one. Welker is a vital cog, and in New England's offense there may actually be enough balls to go around.
Needless to say, none of this bodes well for the next tin can on the Pats' schedule -– your Washington Redskins. On paper, it seems the 'Skins could at least make a respectable game of it; 4-2 makes you pretty damn good in today's NFL. Toss in a Hall of Fame coach, a strong defense, a deep and rounded team, and dare I say it's still a ball game at the second half kick off?
On the other hand, the young QB is turning out to be a winner, but is Jason Campbell ready to stare down those get-in-your-skull Pat D schemes? Admittedly, they played Miami back when Trent Green was healthy, but the 'Skins squeaked out a 16-13 win way back in Week 1. In the spirit of full disclosure, I am also compelled to remind you about this whole NFC thing ... as in the entire conference is so weak you have to grade it on the curve when looking at inter-conference games. Factor in the way New England dismantled Dallas, to date the "class" of the NFC, and once again it could get ugly.
Tracking New England's march to the sea is all the more compelling because this weekend's card isn't exactly full of blockbuster matchups. Like you, I can watch every single NFL game to distraction, but you're out of luck if you seek anything with "Game of the Week" status.
Only a handful of games circled on the calendar for Sunday, the 28th.
Pittsburgh at Cincinnati
Some divisional pull, it's a nice rivalry, and this should be a high-scoring game, but the '07 Bengals are pure lunch-bag letdown. Is this the week they make their move? They better, or else they come out of a loss with a 2-5 record in a tough division that seems to have lost it's automatic two-win dog –- the Browns. Not loving the chances against a Steeler team that got snubbed in Denver on the national stage and, let the record show, plays well at Cincy. Advantage:Steelers
Cleveland (off a bye) at St. Louis
Speaking of winless, the only thing you can say in the Dolphins' favor is that they are winless in the far superior AFC. Where does that leave those 0-7 Rams? Yes, the same Rams that I actually pegged as a dark-horse contender to dethrone Seattle in the West? Ouch! However, in the NFL one must always take care not to poke the bear, and the Rams are wounded and angry and playing at home against the upstart Brownies. Is Cleveland really ready take the next step and win a non-conference game on the road?
Maybe more importantly, are the Rams ready to see their head coach get fired, or will they sell out in an effort to save him?
Detroit at Chicago
The NFC North is still competitive and these teams need to stay close to the remarkable Packers, who have a tough game this week against the Broncos. Something about Griese calling his own plays and engineering that winning drive with no headset speaks of the Bears finally waking up and smelling the coffee. Advantage:Bears
Green Bay at Denver
The way the Colts dismantled the Jags diminished this week's Panther matchup, just as the loss tarnished the Jags-Bucs tilt, but Monday night is a great game –- for my money, the best of the week. Favre is back, and guess what? So are the Broncos, coming off that Steeler win. It won't be easy -– the Packer D is stout, and keep an eye on Champ Bailey's status, because G.B. has crazy wie receiver depth and all the Packers do is pass.
But can they win in Denver without a running game? And once again, I remind you to grade those NFC wins on the curve when facing a quality AFC team. I think Denver finds a way at home. Advantage:Broncos