Week 1 – The Mattyoshow Review

In this segment I will provide a weekly review for the previous weekend’s Patriot game, as well as my prediction for next weekends game.

-I am pretty proud to say that not at one point this off season did I jump onto the “the Pats’ defense will be terrible” bandwagon.  Even in my post previewing the AFC East I said, “As for the defense, their line really doesn’t worry me…I’m not at all worried about Butler and McCourty out wide.”  I’m not trying to blow my own horn here…well maybe I am just a bit…but, I can never be charged with losing faith in the Patriots’ defense.

-The first half for the New England Patriots was more than anyone could have expected, on both sides of the ball.  I’m sad to say that I sat Wes Welker on my fantasy team because of reservations about his return from knee surgery, but he performed wonderfully.  He was making all of the cuts and moves that were to be expected from the 2009 version of Welker.  He looked a little slower than usual, but I’m assuming he’ll regain the remainder of his speed with time.

-Defensively, the first half was one of the better defensive halves that I have seen from this team in a while.  Banta-Cain and Rob Ninkovich did a great job of sealing the edge, allowing Mayo, Guyton, and Spikes to scrape over the top, fill holes, and make plays.  The two biggest standouts in the front seven for me were Vince Wilfork and Tully Banta-Cain.  Wilfork did what a leader does.  He knows that his team is young and that one missed tackle can lead to a huge play.  Vince was taking up two and sometimes three blockers, penetrating on run plays, and even getting after the quarterback.  We all know Banta-Cain is our most gifted pass rusher.  I was so impressed with his play against the run.  Not only did he set the edge on outside rushing plays, he was involved in a great deal of inside runs.

-In the secondary, I was impressed all the way around.  Patrick Chung was playing like a mad man (to the tune of 12 tackles).  He was flying around and looking to hit anything that moved.  Chung isn’t back there for his pass coverage; he is taking the Rodney Harrison “enforcer” role.  Chung’s performance warrants an A+ grade.  Darius Butler had a great first half, but then got picked on a bit in the second half.  I blame that partly on Palmer having 50 passing attempts.  A certain percentage of those passes have to be completed, and more often than not when a team is down they look for their top wideout.  In this case that was Chad Ochocinco, who was Butler’s primary assignment all game.  Butler receiver a B+ grade.  Devin McCourty played amazingly.  The first play of the game he recorded a pass deflection on a deep balled targeted for Terrell Owens, and he didn’t let up after that.  His ability to read and react to the ball is a skill that cannot be coached.  He blanketed Owens all game, and provided more support in the run game than was expected.  McCourty receives an A+ grade.  Meriweather was not in on as many plays as usual, but I credit that to the improved play of his secondary mates.  The All-Pro safety gets a solid B.

-The inside linebackers were also impressive.  Mayo played the best that I have seen him play this season, obviously including the preseason.  He was playing faster than he did all last year.  As you probably know I love Brandon Spikes.  This kid is simply a football player.  He has a nose for the ball, doesn’t mind mixing it up with lineman, and makes ball carriers pay when he hits them.  You can’t ask for much more in a linebacker.  Guyton’s versatility is intriguing.  He played a bit on the outside on Sunday’s game, which could be greatly beneficial if he continues that because after cutting Marques Murrell today the Pats’ now only have three outside linebackers on the roster.

-The offensive line was stout.  Every game that their play continues like this, Logan Mankins’ leverage in contract negotiations is diminished.  The Bengals did not record a sack, which certainly contributed to the great play of Tom Brady.
I have absolutely no problem with Randy Moss’ comments after the game.  Moss clarifying that he has no problems with the team/ownership is a huge plus.  This may mean that his epic end-of-contract breakdown may not happen.  With a healthy, inspired Moss on the roster the Patriots could do some serious damage this season.

-I was also encouraged about what owner Robert Kraft had to say regarding Logan Mankins.  Not only is Mankins apparently not childish enough to refuse millions of dollars because of an apology request, but apparently the line of communication is open between the two parties.  I am no longer completely faithless that this deal will get done, it now just looks like more of a long shot.

-NEXT WEEKS PREDICTION: Patriots 24 – Jets 15

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