Let me start by saying that I am in no way complaining. I’d take a boring 2016 season over a thrilling 2013 or 2015 season any day. But it’s impossible to argue that this Pats season was an awesome one to witness.
Since Week 17 ended, I’ve been looking for Pats 2016 season highlights everywhere I can find them. And I’ve watched the NFL highlights of all 18 Pats games this year, which have gotten better since the NFL took out the narration of Rich Eisen and made more room for more plays in the highlight package. (No offense to Eisen, who’s a beast.)
What I’ve found is there really weren’t any awesome Pats wins this year. The best game of the year was the Seattle game, which loses a lot of luster as a Pats fan because of the final result.
Every other game that was supposed to be a huge game for the Patriots simply did not live up to the hype. The Week 15 game in Denver flat out sucked, and in November we were all looking ahead to that game as one of the most important of the season. Week 7 in Pittsburgh wasn’t great because of Ben Roethlisberger’s injury, and the previous week against the Bengals, Brady’s first home game of the season, didn’t deliver because the Bengals didn’t deliver all year. Week 3 against the Texans was supposed to be a close game to the point that the Texans were actually favored in Foxboro, but Jacoby Brisset and the Pats didn’t give a shit about your stupid Las Vegas lines. The Week 14 Monday Night game vs. the Ravens was a decent one, but only because the Pats almost threw the game away.
The Patriots had 5 regular season games against playoff teams this year, and 4 were against the Dolphins, Texans, or Roethlisberger-less Steelers. And they lost the 5th. Meanwhile, the Pats played 6 games against the Jets, Browns, Bengals, 49ers, and Rams.
Lastly, the Pats’ duo of playoff games have sucked in terms of entertainment. One of them was supposed to suck, and it did its job of sucking because Brock Osweiler is a joke. The AFC Championship game, however, wasn’t supposed to be a joke, but the 2nd half of the game was almost as lopsided as the 2nd half against the Colts in the AFCCG two years ago. If you don’t remember that game, it was the one when the Pats cheated their way with deflated footballs to a 17-7 halftime lead, and then won the 2nd half 28-0 with properly inflated balls. Roger Goodell can go fuck himself.
The most entertaining game of the season for the Pats, surprisingly, was the opening night game in the desert. The Pats beat the Cardinals on a missed field goal with under a minute to go, and it’s the only game where I feel my heart rate rise a beat or two when watching highlights. The fact that Al Michaels was calling that game only helps matters.
The Cardinals game featured lead changes, late-game drama, and all around good football. There are two problems, though. First, the Cardinals finished 7-8-1 and missed the playoffs, and it’s always more fun in hindsight to look back on games in which the Pats beat a playoff team. Oh, and the second problem is that there was no Tom Brady.
So there it is: The most entertaining game of the Pats season was in Week 1 against a non-playoff team without Tom Brady.
During the past 7 seasons in which the Pats have earned 1st round byes, 2016 was easily the most boring year. The 2009 season was infuriating, but it wasn’t boring. It still featured the awesome comeback win in Week 1 vs. the Bills and the 4th-and-2 game against the Colts, and people forget that, through the first 3 quarters of that game, the Pats were probably the best team in the NFL at 6-2 and on their way to 7-2.
The 2001, 2003, and 2007 seasons were not boring in the slightest, and 2004 had enough drama to beat out 2016. The 2002 and 2005 seasons weren’t boring at all, as the Pats were defending the first title in ’02 and defending back-to-back titles in ’05, neither of which we had ever happened before in Foxboro. The 2006 season may have been just as boring when it comes to the regular season, but the Chargers game in the playoffs and the subsequent loss to the Colts ensure that 2006 wasn’t as boring as this year.
That leaves 2008, which takes the cake only because Brady was out the whole year. Among normal years, though, 2016 was the least entertaining season the Pats have had since they started crushing the league. The good news, though, is that nobody in the 5.5 states of New England will care how boring it was if the Patriots make the Falcons their latest victim.
First of all, how amazing is it that I can write this type of can column? Being able to compare your team’s 7 Super Bowl teams within the past 16 seasons is mind-blowing. Savor these moments.
Anyway, the 2016 Patriots were an interesting team. During the middle of the season, it looked like the defense just wouldn’t be able to hold up, and you’re lying if you pretend that you weren’t terrified of a playoff upset by Oakland, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, or Denver when Gronk went down. Nonetheless, the Pats won their two playoff games by a combined 37 points, even though we all agree that they kind of sucked in the first one.
Compared to the 2001, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2011, and 2014 teams, the 2016 Patriots are far different from so many of them. There is one of those AFC Champion teams, however, that is a cousin of this year’s Pats team.
The 2001 Pats is clearly not the one. Tom Brady has an absurd 99.5 rating on ProFootballFocus this season. (The ratings are done out of 100, and 90 is considered “elite.”) He definitely was not elite during first season taking over for Drew Bledsoe. He wasn’t bad by any means, but that team’s defense and special teams were much better than anything about its offense. Very different from 2016.
The 2003 and 2004 teams achieved what may be the best two year period of a defense of all time, especially when you factor in the team achievements of a Super Bowl win in both years. I love Dont’a Hightower, Devin McCourty, and Malcolm Butler. But they’re not Tedy Bruschi, Rodney Harrison, and Ty Law.
The 2007 Patriots are not the 2016 Patriots. They may both have awesome offenses led by incredible seasons from Tom Brady and better than average defenses, but these Pats just aren’t the 2007 ones. This year’s team didn’t stomp on the rest of the league during the regular season the same way the record setting Patriots did.
Next, we’re going to skip to the 2014 Patriots, which should tell you who my final answer is. It’s easy to say that the 2014 Pats were similar to this year’s team, and in many ways, they were. But that offense also relied much more on Gronk than this year’s team has (obviously due to Gronk’s injuries this season). We all lived in fear of a Gronk injury during the 2014 season that would have dismantled the year’s campaign. In the first four games when the Pats gave Gronk a reduced snapcount, Brady and the rest of the offense was lackluster. When they let him loose in Week 5, the offense was incredible.
This year, we all feared that Gronk injury as well, but with Chris Hogan, Michael Bennett, Malcolm Mitchell, Dion Lewis, and James White replacing Brandon LaFell, Shane Vereen, and Tim Wright, the offense could survive that Gronk injury a lot better. And it did. There’s no way that the Patriots win the 2014 Divisional game vs. Baltimore without Gronk’s 7 receptions for 108 yards and 1 TD.
Also, the 2014 defense was better. New England’s best part of the defense in both years was/is its secondary, but the 2016 team doesn’t have the same firepower. Malcolm Butler is a beast, but he’s not 2014 Darrellle Revis, and Patrick Chung has taken a step back this year. The Pats defense has improved massively over the course of the season, but consider this: The 2014 Pats secondary didn’t allow a pass completion to the Seahawks for the first 1.5 quarters in Super Bowl 49, but Russell Wilson lit them up in their matchup this year.
The answer, of course, is the 2011 Patriots that lost to the Giants in Super Bowl 46. Both the 2011 and 2016 Patriots teams featured a version of Tom Brady that was incredible that season, and the 2011 team was 3rd in league offense that season on Football Outsiders’ DVOA rankings, while this 2016 team was 2nd. While the 2011 Super Bowl did have Gronk the whole season, they were relying on a crippled version of Gronk in the Super Bowl, which mirrors the 2016 team not having Gronk at all more than it is to the 2014 team using him at full throttle.
The weakest part of the comparison lies with the defenses, as the 2016 defense is much better. The 2016 team is ranked at 16th on Football Outsiders, and I’d put them higher because of their performance ever since the Seattle game in early November. The 2011 Pats, meanwhile, look to be nothing similar, as they were ranked 30th. But I’ve never bought that ranking. As much as I love Football Outsiders, I’ve always felt that their ranking of the 2011 Pats defense was off. They gave up more than 27 points only once, and held the Ravens and Giants to 20 and 21 points in the AFCCG and Super Bowl, respectively. Those weren’t great offenses, and I’m in no means saying that the Pats defense that year was great, but they also weren’t the 3rd worst in the league. They were at least mediocre and at best decent, which isn’t too far off pace from this year’s team. Finally, the Pats’ special teams this year was 7th in the league, while in 2011 it was 5th. Pretty similar.
The biggest similarities may lie in the intangibles. In both 2011 and 2016, the Pats faced a ton of criticism (some of it legitimate) about getting easy schedules. Also, the NFL was searching for a truly great team all year, and there was none to be found. The NFC was better in 2011, especially when Matt Schaub went out for the year. The NFC was also better in 2016, if you haven’t been reminded enough by 500,000 Patriots haters that you know. Finally, the Pats got to beat up on horrendous quarterbacks in the Divisional Round of both years.
The biggest difference between the 2011 and 2016 teams will come down to their Super Bowl opponents. The Falcons are much better on offense and much worse on defense than the 2011 Giants. Luckily for us, the recipe for beating the Pats every postseason has been applying pressure to Brady, and the Falcons are nowhere near the 2007 Giants, 2011 Giants, or 2015 Broncos in that department. For that reason, let’s hope tha t2016 turns out differently than 2011.
We won’t know for sure whether or not the Patriots are resting their starters in Week 17 until the final whistle Sunday against the Dolphins. That’s the nature of rooting for a team coached by Bill Belichick. As of right now though, the internet/sports radio guessing machines seem to suggest that the Pats won’t rest their starters in the season’s final week. That’s the right call.
It’s logical to think, “The Pats lost out on homefield advantage last year, and they probably would’ve beaten the Broncos if the AFC Championship had been in Foxboro and not Denver, so they shouldn’t let history repeat itself.” That’s fair, but that’s actually not the reason that the Pats need to lock up the 1 seed. Let’s be real, the Pats should beat the Raiders by a touchdown or two even if the game is in Oakland. Derek Carr is a damn good quarterback, and Matt McGloin is definitely not a damn good quarterback. Oakland is currently ranked 8th in total DVOA according to Football Outsiders, but that’s only because their 7th ranked defense buoys their 22nd ranked defense (and 13th ranked special teams.) That #7 ranking is gonna drop juuuuust a little bit, and we shouldn’t be concerned about New England traveling to Oakland.
There is another opponent lurking, however, that should worry you. If the Pats fall to the 2 seed on Sunday, then they’ll most likely have to face the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Divisional Round. While that game promises to be an incredible one, and while the NFL would be thrilled for the ratings it would bring, it’s a very scary game for the Patriots.
Remember, even when the Pats beat the Steel Curtain in October, the game was in doubt for a large portion of the contest. The Steelers had the ball down 14-10 in the 3rd quarter, and luckily they only got a field goal on that drive. The Pats then faced a 3rd and 7 from the outskirts of Stephen Gostkowski’s field goal range, and Brady connected with Gronk for a 36 yard TD pass. From that point on, New England was in control, and the Steelers were done.
Here’s the thing: Big Ben wasn’t playing in that game, and Rob Gronkowski was. Even though the Pats would be facing the Steelers in the playoffs in Foxborough, the Ben/Gronk swap makes a bigger difference than homefield advantage, as important as that is.
The Steelers can drop 40 points on any defense in the league, and their porous defense (which surprisingly ranks 9th on Football Outsiders) will look much less susceptible when they don’t have to prepare for Gronk. The Steelers are clearly the toughest matchup for the Patriots among the AFC teams in the postseason, and Pats fans should root hard for the Pats to not have to face them in the playoffs. That 2-3 game scares me, and it should scare you too. Root for the Pats to win on Sunday so that they don’t have to face the Steelers in the Divisional Round.
The New England Patriots are the best pick to win the Super Bowl, but they also have a glaring Achilles heal that could spell their demise in January. The Pats have been a bend-but-don’t-break defense in the past 5 seasons or so, but their 30th ranked red zone defense this season is a huge departure from the norm.
New England has given up touchdowns on 80% of opponents’ trips to the red zone. That’s flat out horrible — good for a tie with Atlanta for 2nd worst in the league. That’s exactly the type of weakness that could cost the Patriots a playoff win. Even if the pats means that they give up just one more red zone score than an average team in the playoff game, that’s a 4 point swing right there. In the 4 years that the Pats won the Super Bowl, they’ve won 7 games that were decided by 4 points or fewer. Their seasons also ended in playoff games decided by that same margin in 2006, 2007, 2011, and 2015. The importance of the Pats’ red zone defense cannot be underrated.
Malcolm Butler has shut down the likes of Odell Beckham Jr. before, but I’m still concerned about him facing a bigger receiver like A.J. Green. Green represents the perfect test for the Pats defense, as the Bengals are similarly ranked 30th in red zone offense. If New England is going to have a chance at being a good red zone defense, the Bengals are the type of offense that they have to contain in the field’s final 20 yards. We need to see Butler and the rest of the secondary handle A.J. Green, and we need to see Mike Nugent get as many field goal opportunities as he gets PAT chances. If that happens, then the Pats will be making an almost undeniable argument that they’re the best team in the league. We’re going to learn a lot about our team’s Super Bowl chances today.
According to Adam Schefter, Jimmy Garoppolo is unable to play today and Jacoby Brissett will get his 2nd NFL start.
Gotta say, I’m surprised that Jimmy G isn’t going. It seems like he’s able to throw the ball well enough on short passing plays, which is what the Pats offense does best. And even if he re-injured himself today and was unable to play for the next 4-6 weeks or so, who cares? TB12 is back after this, so I’m surprised that Garoppolo didn’t force his way into the lineup.
Actually, I’d bet that Garoppolo tried to do exactly that but was shut down by Belichick and the medical staff. Garoppolo knows that this would likely be his last time playing this year outside of garbage time. Alas, he’s sitting out. Belichick has seen 2 quarterbacks get dinged up in the first 3 weeks of the season, and he wants to make sure he has the best backup QB in the league available in case the same fate happens to Brady.
Also, I’d bet that Belichick has Garoppolo’s trade value somewhere in the back of his head when the Pats made their inactives decisions today. Garoppolo currently has 6 amazing quarters under his belt this season, and his value is at an all time high. If he struggled today, regardless of his injury, his value might drop. Bill always has that next level thinking.
When it comes to today’s game against the Bills, Belichick is probably signaling that the deep ball will be important to the Pats’ offense today. Garoppolo’s arm strength would have been a major question, and Rex Ryan would have taken advantage of that by tempting Jimmy G to throw the long ball.
The Bills are 22nd in the league in passing yards given up per game, and giving them the ability to forgo defending the long ball is an advantage that they need not have. Brissett may not have 2 perfect thumbs today, but at least there’s the chance of him throwing deep.
Regardless, it’s just 1 more week until we get the GOAT back. Happy Sunday.
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.
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.
No, that headline was not meant to be clickbait or to give Patriots fans a distraction to the franchise’s best player getting suspended for a quarter of the season. It’s the truth. The NFL Players’ Association took a humongous hit today, and I hope that they have the backbone to admit how badly they screwed up.
Ever since a reporter for a huge sports media conglomerate and another from a newspaper based in the capital of Indiana, whose names and company names I refuse to write because it gives them the publicity that they so crave (it’s not like they are about journalistic integrity, after all), misreported facts about how the Patriots “cheated” during the AFC Championship Game, fans and media alike have overlooked the most far-reaching aspect of this case. The NFL Players’ Association gave Roger Goodell the power to be the judge and jury for these types of decisions, and they gave him so much power that an Appellate court in NYC decided that such power superceded actual science and fact. And while I’m upset with the Appellate Court, who apparently used the Wells Report in their decision despite the fact that every scientist who took a look at the report said it was BS, I’m far more upset with the NFLPA.
While Roger Goodell has significantly elevated his status of villain in the past 5 years, the players knew that he was an enemy before the 2011 lockout. It’s not breaking news that he’s an owner’s puppet who will gladly prioritize making the owners happy over morality and fairness. Therefore, why in the world would they agree to a CBA that allows Goodell to be the judge and jury? Actually, judge and jury isn’t a fair assessment. Goodell is essentially the police, prosecution, judge, and jury, and he was allowed to pay off the crime scene investigators (Wells) to prove exactly what he wanted to hear. That doesn’t seem like a fair system of justice, which makes it all the more baffling that the NFLPA would agree to such a statute.
The NFLPA just lost one of their best players for the first 4 games of the season, and what’s more, a United States Appellate Court just determined that they have to take each of Roger Goodell’s beatings on the chin, no matter how unfair they are. The NFLPA has to live with this statute for another 4 years until the CBA expires in 2020, and they have no one to blame but themselves.
I know this isn’t what you want to hear right now, but Tom Brady is to blame for this as well. It’s not just DeMaurice Smith, head of the NFLPA, who shoulders the blame for Brady’s suspension. Brady was a high ranking member of the NFLPA during the CBA negotiations in 2011, and while he wasn’t as high ranking as the name of the case, “Brady vs. NFL,” would suggest, he was certainly high enough that he deserves his fair share of blame for this. Players should never accept a statute like this. If a union is going to be in place, then a union should be able to have basic rights that allow its workers to operate as if they were living in, you know, America. When it comes to punishment, the NFLPA has no such rights, which is all the more evidence we need to know that the NFLPA is far more inferior than the players’ associations in other sports. One judge ruled that the commissioner’s ruling was unfair, and the higher court came along and said “Yeah, but they have the right to be that unfair, the NFLPA agreed to it.” That’s a problem, and it sucks for Patriots fans that Tom Brady is the one paying for it. Remember, though, Tom Brady shares the blame in this one, and I’ll bet you THAT’S what is going to cause him a sleepless night tonight — not footballs that were never actually underinflated.
Well, it happened. We knew this would be possible, but wishful thinking combined with fatigue from Deflategate prevented us from truly understanding the possibility that Tom Brady would actually sit out 4 games due to suspension.
I don’t have to tell you that the decision is total BS, given that the judges used the Wells Report in their decision, and every major scientist from every major university who ran their own tests on this scenario found that science was not on Ted Wells’ side. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to matter to judges, who didn’t feel that it was their job to care about the facts of the case, but only to determine whether or not Roger Goodell could be this unfair. Apparently, he can.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not completely devastated. This ruling could hurt the Pats’ playoff seeding, which, as we learned a few months ago, is a huge deal with a potential trip to Denver looming. Denver has a very advantageous schedule this season, which makes this ruling hurt a little bit more. Having said that, better men than I have doubted the Brady/Belichick Patriots, and they’ve all been proven to be morons. I’m not gonna be a moron, and I hope that you won’t either.
The Patriots are going to win the AFC East again this year. They will be one of the top 5 Super Bowl Contenders. The sun will rise in the East tomorrow. Some things are facts of life.
But, as we learned the hard way last season — which we should have known all along — the Patriots’ playoff seeding is incredibly important, especially with a trip to Mile High in Denver on the line. The Pats have always struggled in Denver, and ensuring that the AFC Championship would be in Foxboro was an important aspect of the Pats’ 2015 season. Of course, Bill Belichick made one of his rare mistakes and rested the team in Week 17 (and didn’t go for 2 on the tying touchdown in the Jets game in Week 16).
In the 2016 season, the Patriots, Broncos, and Steelers/Bengals will likely experience another all out war for the number 1 seed. Here’s the problem: The NFL gifted the Broncos with a very advantageous schedule.
I’m not saying that the Broncos have an easy schedule in terms of opponents, mainly because it’s near impossible to predict how teams will be playing in half a year. In terms of the timing of several significant games couldn’t be much better for the defending champs. Let’s take note of the Broncos’ schedule perks:
- The NFL Twitterverse commented on the Broncos schedule by exclaiming, “Look how tough the Broncos’ first 3 games are!” But here’s the thing, if the Broncos are gonna have to face the Panthers this season, the best time to play them is opening night. Since 2003, only the 2012 Giants and 2013 Ravens lost the kickoff game. The 2013 Ravens had to travel to Denver for the opener because the Orioles were playing at the time and the two teams’ stadiums are too close to have both teams play at once (seriously), and the Eli Manning era Giants have been an all time enigma, so I don’t put much stock into them losing, either. Given the Broncos’ home field advantage at Mile High, they’ll probably continue the streak with the added motivation of the night, and then they get the Colts at home with 3 extra days’ rest. That’s a fantastic way to face the Colts, as well.
- Denver’s other Thursday night game and Monday night game. couldn’t have worked out better. It seems like a Thursday night on the road after facing the Falcons would be a tough game, but the Broncos only have to play the Chargers. Philip Rivers might have one of his random 500 yard days, but it’s more likely that an all time QB statue will get pummeled by DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller. Then the Broncos don’t play the Texans for another 11 days and it’s in Denver. The game after a Monday night game also have high trap game potential… but not so much when those same Chargers come to town for the Broncos’ 2nd home game in a row.
- Then the Broncos have to go on the road for 2 games in a row, but they get rewarded with a bye week. That bye comes in Week 11, and a late bye seems to be much better for a team with a front-heavy schedule who’s already expected to easily make the playoffs, right?
- The Broncos’s bye week gives them an extra week of rest before they face the Chiefs at home.
- Finally, the most important game of the year from our perspective is the Pats-Broncos game in Week 15 on Sunday Night Football. We already knew that the Pats would travel to Denver for the game, but we didn’t know that New England would host Baltimore on Monday Night Football only 6 days before. The Ravens do anything possible to beat the Pats up every time they play, which is part of what makes those games so awesome. The thin air of Denver on a short week after facing the Ravens? The Pats couldn’t have had a worse draw for that game.
Looks like we might have to get used to the idea of the Pats going back to Denver in the playoffs. Let’s hope Philip Rivers has a few more random 500 yard games in him.