Monday, September 8, 2008

Post-Brady Patriots

There are multiple reports that Tom Brady’s knee injury will knock him out for the 2008 campaign. Just last week I predicted the results of each of the Patriots games this season, with the caveat that “all bets are off if the Patriots don’t start at least one player named “Brady” (link). So I thought I’d take another look at the schedule, given that Brady might not suit up again this year.

(Note: there are also multiple reports that the Patriots are bringing in Chris Simms – which I think would be a good move. Doing so would obviously have an impact on how these results would go. But they haven’t signed him yet, so for now it’s on Matt Cassel’s shoulders.)

Matt Cassel’s first start on the road is next week against the Jets. The only way the Patriots win that one is if Favre throws at least two interceptions, and I don’t think he will. The Jets will be conservative and let Cassel make the critical mistake and will probably beat the Patriots. The Miami game should be a pitched battle, but I think the Patriots have enough talent to win that one.

After the Bye Week, it’ll be the battle of the unproven QBs in San Francisco – with the Patriots coming out on top. I already predicted a loss at San Diego and another one at home against the Broncos. I doubt that replacing Brady with Cassel will change things for the better, so I’ll stick with that.

The Rams will still be in a very tough part of their schedule, so I think the Patriots can win that one. The Colts will clearly beat the Patriots in Indy – provided their franchise QB stays healthy. I still think the Pats have enough firepower to beat the Bills, but the game should significantly closer than the 38-7 drubbing they gave them in Foxboro last year.

The second Jets game will likely be a rallying cry for the team, with their playoff hopes hanging in the balance (at 5-4), and badly needing a win, I think they’ll muster the energy for a key division victory. I predicted a loss against the Dolphins, and I’ll stay with that. But oddly, I still think the Patriots will beat the Steelers. Don’t ask why, just a gut feeling.

Matt Cassel on the road in an extremely loud stadium in Seattle doesn’t inspire confidence, so that will put them at 7-6 with winnable games against the Raiders and Cardinals. I think they'll win those games to set up a showdown with Buffalo with the winner making the playoffs. Unfortunately, that is where the season will end, as the Bills come roaring out to get to the playoffs for the first time this century. So the Patriots could/should finish at 9-7 (or maybe 8-8, if my gut feeling about Pittsburgh is wrong), which I think puts them out of the playoffs.

I know that this morning 9-7 might sound like the rosy outlook of a huge Patriots fan. But even though I’m a fan, I will call it as I see it. The Patriots schedule is the easiest in the NFL (based on last year’s records), and they are still loaded on defense and at many other offensive positions. Belichick will likely treat Cassel the same way he did Brady in his first season as a starter. And the Patriots did okay that year. Not that I’m predicting that kind of performance again, or expecting it. Just stating facts in evidence.

Keep the faith, if you can!

- Scott


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