The 2008 New England Patriots season sucked, at least by the standards that we’re used to in New England. It was 1 of 2 seasons out of 15 when they didn’t make the playoffs, an 8-8 team played January football but the 11-5 Pats didn’t, and we got to watch Tom Rrady for exactly 2 drives all season.
But we learned some things about the Patriots. We learned that anyone who thought that Belichick’s success had been entirely due to Tom Brady was a moron. We also got to see a good estimate of how good a quarterback has to play for the Patriots to still be a playoff team. They may not have made the postseason that year, but an 11-5 record in a season with inflated records in the AFC East is a pretty good indicator of where the line of demarcation is for whether or not a team makes the playoffs.
Therefore, we need Jimmy garoppolo to measure up to Matt Cassel in order to the Pats to stay on a playoff pace. They could still make the postseason if Garroplo was a lot worse and the Pats went 1-3 without Brady, because TB12 is TB12. But given how important homefield advantage is for the Pats, we need to hope for more.
Matt Cassel put up almost 3700 yards, 21 TDs, 11 picks, a 63.4% completion percentage, an 89.4 passer rating, and he threw on 270 rushing yards for good measure. Cassel also averaged 7.16 yards per passing attempt, and the Pats as a whole averaged 6.7 Garoppolo is only slated to play a quarter of the season, so we can knock those numbers down to 925 yards, 5 TDs, 3 INTs, and the same 63.4% and 89.4 completion percentage and passer rating, respectively.
However, we need to account for the fact that the quarterbacks and passing attacks have gotten a lot better in the NFL over the past 8 years. In 2008, the median yards per team passing play was 6.4, and in 2015 it was 6.7. The median passing completion percentage in 2008 was 60.45%, while it was 63.08% in 2015. That means that 2008 New England was about 0.3 yards per passing attempt better than league average with Cassel, and Cassel put up a completion percentage that was about 3% better than league average.
So let’s say Garoppolo performs beats league average by the same margins that Cassel does. That would put the Pats at 7.0 yards per passing play and a 66.4% completion percentage. Those seem like some lofty standards, but that’s where the NFL passing game is right now.
Garoppolo had a 72.7% completion percentage, and the Pats averaged 7.8 yards per passing play. That means that Garoppolo is already ahead of pace from what Matt Cassel laid out, which is something I think we all expected anyway.
Really, though, why does it matter how much better Garoppolo is than Cassel? If The Pats can just get enough good play and enough luck for New England to go 3-1 without Brady, isn’t that all that matters?
Not so much. Matt Cassel provides another barometer for Garoppolo and the Patriots: The Kansas City Chiefs traded the 34th overall pick for Cassel, and Cassel was a former 7th rounder who still carried doubts about whether or not he would succeed without an amazing team like the Patriots around him. Bill Belichick will look to trade Garoppolo after the season — when Jimmy G has 1 year left on his deal — and he’ll want a bigger return than the 34th pick.
How much better Garoppolo plays than Cassel determines just how high that return is. If Jimmy G continues that line of 7.8 yards per passing play (and 8.0 yards per actual pass attempt) and keeps completing more than 7 out of every 10 passes, then 2 first round picks is in play as far as a trade haul. Matt Cassel set the trade market for a promising backup of Tom Brady, and it looks like Jimmy Garoppolo has a good shot of obliterating that market.
2016 IS HERE! LET’S GO!!!!!
Ever since that damn 2 point conversion, we’ve been waiting for this day. The Pats are back, and that void in our lives has been filled.
Let’s be honest, though. We’re a little nervous about the 2016 season, at least compared to previous years. With the team that New England has this year, the Pats should have an automatic top 2 seed before the season even starts. They started out 10-0 last year, earned the #2 seed, and would have had homefield advantage throughout had it not been for injuries and a dumb decision to lay down in Week 17. Their only real loss from the team was Chandler Jones, and Jabaal Sheard, Chris Long, and co. should be able to serve as decent enough replacements for the synthetic pothead.
But this year doesn’t look too good out of the gate. Brady is out for 4 games, and Gronk is out at least tonight. My gut tells me that Gronk will miss at least 2 more games, because it wasn’t like it was a gametime decision for him not to play today, as we heard the news yesterday. That makes a Week 2 comeback unlikely, and week 3 is on a Thursday night after a short week.
As far as Brady’s B.S. suspension goes, I think there’s a higher potential for disaster in Garoppolo’s first 4 starts than most Pats fans do, especially without Gronk. Pats fans point to the fact that the team’s next 3 games after tonight’s are all at home, but they conveniently overlook the fact that the Cardinals, Dolphins, Texans, and Bills collectively make up a fearsome foursome of defensive lines. Both before and after the severity of Gronk’s hamstring injury came to light, I thought that a 2-2 record through the first 4 was most likely. Before Gronk’s injury, I thought that 3-1 was more probable than 1-3. Now, though, 1-3 feels more likely than 3-1.
A 1-3 start would be rough for the Patriots, but not because it would put their playoff chances in doubt. After all, I’m the guy who just wrote that it’s insane that the Pats are only -350 to make the postseason.
What should worry you, though, is the Pats’ seed in the playoffs. They’ve never made a Super Bowl without having a 1st round bye. They could easily make the Big Game from a 3 or 4 seed, but Kansas City, Pittsburgh, and especially Denver, as I wrote last year, represent very difficult places to play in January.
Still though, New England is the most likely AFC team to earn the top seed and make the Super Bowl. Denver’s defense simply can’t repeat itself from last year, as elite defense is more volative year to year. They also lost Malik Jackson and Danny Trevathan.
Kansas City is going to be a tough, ballsy team this year, and I’m glad that the Pats don’t face them in the regular season. But I just can’t bet on an Alex Smith team to beat a Tom Brady team to the top seed. And let’s stop the “If Pittsburgh can get healthy” talk. Ben Roethlisberger is always prone to missing a few games, Maurkice Pouncey is always prone to missing the whole season, and Le’Veon Bell is out for at least 3 games and maybe more if the injury big hits him again.
The Pats may stumble out of the gate thanks to Roger Goodell’s sliminess and the NFLPA allowing the NFL to run their lives during the last CBA, but this season might wind up being the opposite of 2015: Start out slow, go on a run when Brady and Gronk are both back, and be healthy late in the year rather than early in the year. If the Pats can earn the top seed or even the 2 seed after missing Brady for 4 games and Gronk for a few to start the season, everyone will be talking about how they’re the best team heading into the playoffs.
What else is new?
Garoppolo goes 2-2, but the Pats have a point differential of -15 in those 4 games, leading everyone to worry if something is truly wrong with the Pats. Brady and Gronk come back and right the ship, and the Pats have decent injury luck throughout the rest of the year. They finish 12-4 and earn the top seed because the AFC doesn’t have many elite teams. They’ll make the Super Bowl and face the Packers in a Brady-Rodgers showdown, and ultimately Brady will come out on top.
It’s not biased if they truly are the best team. Can you honestly tell me anyone else is better? God, it’s good to live in New England.
I can’t quite seem to understand this one…
If you’re unaware of how betting lines work, that’s fine. They’re kinda weird. Essentially, if a team is -7 points in a given game, they’re favored by 7 points (because they’d have to “subtract” 7 points for the teams to be equal). If they’re +7, they could lose by 6 points and cover the spread. If an outcome is listed as “-200,” then you have to bet $200 to win $100. If it’s +200, then you have to bet $100 to win $200.
The Patriots are -350 to make the playoffs. That’s insane. If you do the math, you’ll realize that Vegas is giving the Pats a 77.78% chance of making the playoffs.
The first time I did the math and read the stat, I thought that it was a 78% chance of winning the division, and I thought “Ok, that’s fair considering that Brady is missing the first 4 games.” But nope, this is just about making the playoffs. Even if the Jets, Bills, or Dolphins somehow has an awesome season and exceeds everyone’s expectations — which is the only way that the Pats wouldn’t win the division barring an insane number of critical injuries — the Pats could still get one of the Wild Cards and win you the bet.
Have they not been watching the Brady-Belichick Patriots for the past 15 years? Only in 2002 and 2008 did the Pats not make the playoffs. Brady wasn’t Brady in ’02, and he was obviously injured in ’08, an unusually deep year for the AFC. The Pats won it all in 2014, won their first 10 games in 2015 and had a playoff spot pretty much locked up from like Week 4 on. Oh yeah, and they’ve made 5 straight AFC Championships and earned 6 (!!!!) consecutive 1st round byes. That seems like a lot more than a 78% chance to make the playoffs to me.
This line shouldn’t be that surprising, though. Las Vegas is damn good at making lines that either screw you over or make it impossible for you to make a decision, but they constantly underrate New England. In 2014 and 2015, the Pats had under/overs of 10.5 wins. I could kinda see that in 2014, but that was certifiably stupid in 2015 after the Super Bowl 49 season. (That 10.5 wins line existed even after Brady’s suspension was originally overturned in early September of 2015.)
An even better example might be 2010, when Vegas pinned the Pats at 9.5 wins heading into the 2010 season after the shaky 2009 Pats season. That line was somewhat defensible at the time because it did seem like Belichick didn’t have the same command of the locker room as he did during the Super Bowl years, but 9.5 wins for a team getting Tom Brady back for the 2nd year after his ACL tear? C’mon. At the very least, you’d think that Vegas would have learned their lesson after that debacle of a line and the Pats’ subsequent 14-2 season.
We love sports as a whole because of the unpredictability, but we love the Patriots because of their consistency and reliability. Patriots -350 to make the playoffs is as close to free money as you’ll get in sports. Don’t miss out on the opportunity.