Farley’s Forecast- AFC East

Good to be back here on NTCF. I’ve been reading all of the great content however I haven’t done much to contribute. I want to get back into the mix here so i am introducing my first edition of Farley’s Forecast where the slogan i just made up is, I’m right more than your local weatherman (person for you sensitive types).

Its a very boring period in the NFL season (there is no off-season), OTA’s mean very little because its played in short and t shirts. Pay no mind to local reports of who has impressed in OTA’s or minicamps. The main goal for coaches during this period is to get the rookies and newly acquired free agents acclimated to how practices will be run and what to expect from the coaching staff.

Allow me to delve into the AFC East and forecast how I see it playing out this season. Shocker here, New England wins the division. I’ll get to them later, though. I’ll start at the bottom and work my way up.

New York Jets

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Now, when the most newsworthy story for your team is that the butt fumble has been #1 on the not top ten for half of the year, there are some problems with your franchise.  The New York Jets are in a world of trouble folks. They just traded away the best player on their already talent-starved roster, and while Revis may never reurn to form its still isn’t a smart football decision. Which, if you’re keeping track at home occurs about as often as Rex Ryan opting for a salad. I can assure you that Dee Millner is not the second coming and what was a strength for them has become yet another problem area. The best quarterback on that roster just retired due to injury and the battle of Sanchez and Smith should be, well, irrelevant. Smith just doesn’t project as a solid NFL starter in my opinion and he had more weapons in West Virginia. I expect Sanchez to win the job is Rex has say, but I’m not so sure about that. I’m calling a 32nd ranked offense this season. Listen, if you think I’m bashing the Jets you’re right, but am I wrong? With  Rex in seemingly a lame duck period as the coach of this team and a questionable lockeroom to be kind, can you honestly see this team competing in this division? This team should come apart by the halfway mark with all the great character in the locker room and the only thing to look forward to from them is the occaisonal meltdown in front of a microphone.

Win range- 2-6

Buffalo is a team that will be interesting to monitor leading up to September. Did they draft EJ Manuel too high? Of course they did, but I think he was the most NFL ready quarterback in the draft and I’m not sure he will win the job right away. Say what you want about Kevin Kolb but the offensive line in Arizona will make every quarterback in the NFL struggle. I think Kolb will be much improved in this new system and the change of scenery should serve him well. CJ Spiller will have a breakout year because he finally has a coach who believes in him being an every down back. I think Buffalo’s offense will be exciting to watch this season and they will need to be to keep the Bills in the hunt this season. The best defensive addiiton the Bills made was reatining star safety Jaruis Byrd. Byrd will need more help this season and it starts in run support. The Bills allowed 5 yards per carry last season, thats just terrible. If they can make improvements in stopping the run they’ll be able to pin their ears back and maybe get something from their investment in Mario Williams. I can see the Bills having a similair season to years past where they show flashes of brilliance but ultimately fail to compete for a full 16 games.With a rookie head coach and too many holes to fill in one year i see them finishing third in the division this year.

Win Range- 4-9

Miami wins the Dan Snyder award for over-spending in the offseason. General Manager Jeff Ireland saw the writing on the wall and spared no expense revamping the mediocre roster he created in a final attempt to save his job. Alot of the moves Miami made make sense on paper but for now all they seem to be doing is blowing hot air down in south beach. The seventh ranked scoring defense seems to be improved  from last season. Miami struggled to create turnovers in 2012 and that was the point of emphasis from the coaching staff when discussing the new look roster. Drafting Dion Jordan should help Cameron Wake on the opposite side of the line in passing situations however I don’t see him as an every down end just yet. He will have time to develop and fill out his thin frame while serving as a rush specialist early in his career similair to Bruce Irvin in Seattle. The secondary is still the biggest weakness for this team and when you play Tom Brady twice a year thats a problem. The offense also added alot of pieces but I would like to talk about one that was on the roster last season. Lamar Miller is set to take over for Reggie Bush and I love his potential. The offensive line needs to create more holes but if they do Miller can be a big surprise this season.Miami has made alot of moves but they won’t mean a thing if Ryan Tannehill doens’t take a significant step forward this year. He showed flashes and you one could point to the lack of weapons, but that is no longer the case. The Miami Dolphins will go as Ryan Tannehill goes this season and that will determine where they end up this season.

Win Range- 6-10

New England will win this division, but when you’re the Patriots, (at least in the last decade) winning the conference is the goal. The division shouldn’t be a struggle but the AFC looks to be tougher than in years past. The storyline with New England lately is how do they get back to the Super Bowl? Time and again they seem to have a let down in the playoffs and this post-postseason saw alot of players leave. Welker is the most noteworthy departure however as long as Amendola stays healthy (huge if) they will get more explosive plays from the slot this season. While the Gronk surgeries should cause some concern it won’t jeopordize training camp let alone the seaosn opener. While we are on the subject Gronk could miss the entire regular season and the offense would still be top ten. What New England needs is him to be healthy in the playoffs. The offense will always be in good hands so long as Tommy ballgame is under center. The defense needs to either get to the quarterback at a record pace, or change something up on the back end. The Pats were middle of the road in the sack department tying for 15th in the league. The secondary however finished 29th in the league and therein lies the problem. Bill Belichick needs a new perspective for his schemes in the secondary. You can point to his super bowl trophies and say how completely ridiculous that statement is but after you settle down think back to those super bowls. When New England was winning super bowls they had at least one pro bowl corner on one side of the field.

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Week 15 – The Mattyoshow Review

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

-As I was listening to the radio yesterday as I was driving back down to ‘Gansett before the Pats game, one of the more rational anchors of the show made a very good point.  He explained that even after one game of “spot duty,” we as fans knew relatively little about Matt Flynn.  The only people that truly knew what Matt Flynn was made of were the coaches of the Green Bay Packers.  For all we know, Matt Flynn could very well be the next Tom Brady, or he could be the next Max Hall…your guess would have been as good as mine.  Although the sample size is very small, Matt Flynn took a great leap in gaining my respect on Sunday night.  Against a pass defense that looked to be improving by the snap, Flynn completed 24 of his 37 pass attempts for 251 yards, 3 touchdowns and only one interception.  I would have been willing to bet nearly all of the money in my bank account that Tom Brady would have outplayed Matt Flynn on Sunday night, but thankfully I didn’t because I would be a very broke dude.

-Speaking of the pass defense, even with Flynn’s numbers being pretty good I did not think that the Patriots pass defense played poorly.  In my opinion, it looked like the game plan coming into Sunday night was to play primarily defensive-back-heavy packages, let the Packers catch the ball underneath, and tackle them before they broke plays for big yardage.  In that sense, the defense was quite effective.  The Patriots dressed nine defensive backs for the game (four corners and five safeties), so you knew that they would be in nickel and dime coverage for most of the contest.  Only one pass play for the Packers went for over 20 yards, and that was the deep ball thrown to James Jones where Brandon Meriweather decided to light up Devin McCourty rather than Jones.  The Pats’ pass defense contained the Packers top two wideouts in Greg Jennings and Donald Driver, limiting them to a combined 7 receptions for 61 yards and a touchdown.  The Patriots knew that the Pack’ were going to line up and sling the ball all around the field, and in my opinion they did a good job of containing it.

-Defensively for the Patriots, three players deserve mention above the rest.  Jerod Mayo, Vince Wilfork, and Devin McCourty all played spectacular games and were integral in the Patriots ability to pull out a win on Sunday.  Mayo continued on his campaign to lead the NFL in tackles, and possibly get some consideration for defensive player of the year, amassing 16 total tackles (10 solo).  Mayo again was all over the field, filling run lanes whenever possible and making plays on underneath passes.  I’m amazed with how much progress he has made in only three years in the NFL.  Mayo and Spikes will be one of the more formidable inside linebacker tandems for years to come in the NFL.  Devin McCourty improves every single game.  Aside from being burned on the deep James Jones pass mentioned earlier, McCourty had tight coverage on every other ball thrown his way.  You can’t ask much more from a corner when he finished a game with 10 tackles (7 solo), one sack, two tackles for loss, and one pass defended.  This kid is making a serious run at defensive rookie of the year.  What more can you say about Vince Wilfork?  Wilfork made a name for himself as one of, if not the premier nose tackle in the NFL, and now has essentially made a semi-transition to defensive end, and continues to be a game changer along the defensive line.  Wilfork’s impact on a game rarely shows up in the stat line, but if you study him for a consecutive string of plays, it is amazing how often he diverts run plays, stuffs the running lanes, push the pocket, and just cause complete havoc.  The Patriots are lucky to have a guy like Wilfork up front, and him being a leader of this young defense is just icing on top of the cake.

-Offensively, the Patriots weren’t great, but they did what needed to be done.  The Patriots how now scored 30+ points in six consecutive games, but this was the toughest thirty of that entire stretch.  Dom Capers (former Patriots secondary coach and special assistant and current Green Bay defensive quarterback) had the best defensive game plan against the Pats that I have seen since the Cleveland game.  Capers used various stunts and blitzes along the defensive line, allowing his players to sack Brady three times.  Their pressure disrupted the Patriots offensive rhythm, limiting their effectiveness in the passing game (leading receiver: Wes Welker, 3 receptions, 42 yards).  The run game never really got a chance to get started as the Patriots fell behind early in the second quarter and were not able to regain the lead until mid-way through the fourth.  That all being said, the offensive did enough to pick up a victory, and in the end that is all that matters.  Oh and by the way, welcome back Aaron Hernandez.

NEXT WEEK’S PREDICTION – Patriots 35 – Buffalo 21

Week 14 – The Mattyoshow Review

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

-Not to boast, but for the majority of the season my “What to Look For…” segment has provided some pretty good insight into the Patriots games, and the issues touched upon are usually very relevant to what actually occurs.  This past week, I was not even close.  With the predicted weather conditions, I though that this game would turn into an uglier version of a Ravens-Steelers game.  Run after run, relentless defense, turnovers happening all over the place…but no.  The Patriots came out and in nine degree weather, snow falling, and wind gusts up to 40 mph, they lined up in their five-wide formation on the first play of the game and threw a pass.  Brady accumulated 369 yards on 27-40 passing for two touchdowns.  Both Deion Branch and Wes Welker went over 100 yards receiving.  I feel like I have never been more wrong in my entire life…and yet don’t really mind because they pulled out a win.

-I thought that the loss of Brandon Spikes would be more evident than it was on Sunday.  Gary Guyton and Dane Fletcher filled in at inside linebacker, and did a great job throughout the whole game.  Their statistics may not reflect how well that they played (Guyton 2 tackles, one assist – Fletcher 0 tackles), but when your leading tackler only has four stops, stats may not be the best measure of performance.  The Patriots allowed only 46 total yards on the ground, and never really let the Bears run game get into sync.  Granted, being down 21 points in the middle of the second quarter doesn’t really help your run production, but the job that Guyton and Fletcher did in the middle still needs to be recognized.

-Devin McCourty strikes again.  This kid is truly amazing.  He leads the team with six interceptions and, as a rookie in one of the league’s most complex schemes (although I think that coach Belichick has “dumbed it down” a bit to accommodate all of the young guys), that is an impressive feat.  Even when McCourty isn’t picking off passes he’s making plays that have huge impacts on the game.  The fumble that McCourty forced in the second quarter yesterday that was subsequently returned for a touchdown by the aforementioned Gary Guyton, was essentially the nail in the Bears’ coffin.  I know, proclaiming that a game is over in the second quarter may be a bit unrealistic, but the anemia that was infused in Chicago’s offense yesterday left little doubt in my mind that 21 points would win the game.  McCourty did leave the game in the second quarter with a rib injury, but told reporters while leaving the locker room yesterday that he was “Ok.”

-I’m not big on worrying about who the best team in the NFL is on a week to week basis, simply because it doesn’t really matter and it actually changes from week to week.  Whether Trent Dilfer thinks that the Patriots, Falcons, Eagles, Ravens, Steelers or whoever is the best team does not matter to me, or should it to you, in the least bit.  What does matter is how this team is playing football.  I was not as high on the Bears as other people may have been, but you can’t really scoff at a 9-4 record.  I was actually very high on the Jets, even considering them to be better than the Pats until last week, and at 9-4 they seem to be a formidable team too.  The same story goes for the Steelers and the Ravens.  My point here is that the Patriots are currently playing some of the best football that I have seen this year, and maybe over the past few years.  This offense, even without the big name guys (specifically Mr. Moss), is performing at an equal efficiency to the 2007 version that set all kinds of offensive records.  The run game is finally a continued factor, and the defense becomes more impressive on a weekly basis.  It is time to realize that the New England Patriots are currently a group of 61 players (53 active, 8 practice squad) that have completely bought in to the “Belichickian” way.  If their play continues at this level, there is no limit to the amount of success that can be experienced.  It is important for us all to realize how lucky we are to see such a great product on a weekly basis.  It is important for us to realize how truly amazing of a player Tom Brady is (like top 5 quarterbacks of all-time amazing).  It is important for us realize that we have the greatest coach in NFL history patrolling the sidelines for our favorite team.  You may think I’m being dramatic and over-reactant, but I’m simply expressing to you all what will be realized in twenty years when Belichick and Brady are old, grayer, and reflection of their greatness finally is underway.  Appreciate what is brought to you every Sunday, or the occasional Monday, and understand how great the New England Patriots truly are.

-NEXT WEEK’S PREDICTION (assuming Aaron Rodgers is out) – Patriots 31 – Packers 10

What to Look For…

Monday’s matchup between the 9-2 New England Patriots and the 9-2 New York Jets may be the most anticipated and hyped regular season game in quite some time.  Both teams are considered to be among the elite AFC teams, as well as the top teams in the entire NFL.  Both have Super Bowl aspirations, but know that winning a division title is a big step in that direction.  Much has been made of the contrast in coaching styles between Bill Belichick, the comments out of New York about the Patriots, and even comparisons between Michelle Ryan and Gisele Bundchen.  But, when it Monday night finally rolls around, here is what to look for…

-In the first matchup between the Patriots and Jets all the way back in week 2, there were two things that stuck out to me that were essential parts of a New York victory.  LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene combined to rush for 128 yards and Dustin Keller racked up seven receptions for 115 yards and one touchdown.  The Jets formula is pretty simple, pound the ball until the defense can’t take it anymore, and then use the play action pass to seal the deal.  Although the Jets run game has slowed down a bit as of late, they are still a run first team, and that is scary to think about when they have weapons like Santonio Holmes and Dustin Keller in the passing game.  New England is 18th in the NFL, allowing just over 110 yards per game on the ground.  Since the Jets game, the Patriots are allowing an average 110 yards per game on the ground, and since their bye week they are allowing 110 yards per game on the ground.  So, the Patriots defense has consistently shown that they will let up yards on the ground…or have they?  Over New England’s last 3 games, they have let up over 100 yards once (129 in a Detroit blowout), and held Indy and Pittsburgh both under 76 yards rushing.  In their matchup against Minnesota and Adrian Peterson, the Pats allowed a total of 125 rushing yards, 33 of which came on one Tavaris Jackson scramble.  They allowed less than 100 yards against both Baltimore and Miami, two teams that rely on the run game to produce.  What to look for: How the Patriots defense works to contain the Jets run game, and limit the effectiveness of Dustin Keller.

-The New York Jets possess the third best run defense in the entire NFL, allowing just over 86 yards per contest.  Seeing those stats, one may be inclined to think that the Pats will abandon the run all together and rely heavily on Tom Brady’s effectiveness, but history tells us otherwise.  The Pats have had the luxury of playing against six teams that are in the top ten in the NFL in terms of rushing yards per game against (NYJ, PIT, MIN, SD, BAL, MIA).  Against those six teams, the Pats are averaging a respectable 96 yards per game on the ground.  I am not calling for 35 carries and 150 yards out of the Pats rushing attack (although it would be nice), but at least being productive on the ground will force the Jets to consider the run up front, opening up some more throwing lanes for Brady.  What to look for: How effectively the Patriots run game is/ is used against one of the league’s best run defenses.

-There are two huge differences that I see in this game compared to their week 2 matchup, Santonio Holmes and Danny Woodhead.  Holmes has been the Jets’ most effective receiver since coming off of his suspension after the Jets’ fourth game.  Holmes has put up over 100 yards in two out of his last four games, and has found the end zone four times in his last three contests, not to mention the late-game heroics that he has pulled over the last couple of weeks.  Danny Woodhead has proven to be one of the Patriots most dangerous offensive weapons since joining the team right before the week 2 loss to the Jets.  He has filled in for Kevin Faulk seamlessly, and in my opinion, has even been a more dynamic player than Faulk.  Both players will have an impact on Monday night’s contest, and the amount that each impacts the game may very well be a key determinant in the outcome.  What to look for: What impact Danny Woodhead and Santonio Holmes have on the game.

-What might turn out to be the biggest battle in this game is if Darrelle Revis gets shifted inside across from slot wide receiver Wes Welker.  Welker’s played has improved as of late.  After getting off to a great start at the beginning of the season (26 receptions, 217 yards, 3 touchdowns) through the first four games, his played faded after the departure of Randy Moss.  Since the Pittsburgh game, Welker has seemingly regained his old form and has been the best receiving threat on the field for the Pats over the last three games (21 catches, 237 yards, 3 touchdowns).  We all know the legend of Darrelle Revis.  Just 11 games into his fourth year in the NFL, Revis is considered by many to be the greatest corner to ever play the game.  No wide receiver has ever caught a pass with Revis covering him.  Randy Moss will not make the Hall of Fame because he faced off against Revis seven times…Alright ESPN, we get it.  The guy is a good cornerback.  I’m not arguing those facts.  He is a top three corner in the NFL, and has to be in the argument for number one.  Is he unbeatable?  No.  Will Darrelle Revis have a harder time covering Wes Welker than Randy Moss?  If both are healthy, yes.  Welker is shifty and tough to jam.  He doesn’t run deep routes and loves making quick cuts.  Revis excels at jamming receivers and then running with them down the field.  What to look for: If Welker and Revis are matched up against each other, how each performs out of their element.

-THIS WEEK’S PREDICTION: Patriots 20 – Jets 10

Week 12 – The Mattyoshow Review

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

-The New England Patriots got off to a slow start in Thursday Thanksgiving Day battle in Detroit, finding themselves in a 17-10 hole going into halftime.  But, a reestablished focus combined with a fiery halftime speech from Tom Brady amounted to a 35 point second half and a blowout of the Detroit Lions.  Much has been made this season of the Patriots young defense not being able to stop the bleeding when teams began piling on points.  Well, on Thursday their defense did just that.  After allowing 17 first half points, the defense tightened up, essentially shutting down Calvin Johnson, and subsequently allowing only 7 Detroit points in the second half.

-It seems that in every edition of the Mattyoshow Review, I can not mention the defense without bringing up two names, Jerod Mayo and Devin McCourty.  Jerod Mayo had yet another game where his effectiveness can not be measured in terms of stats.  Although he posted a good stat line (8 tackles, 4 assists), Mayo was seemingly in on nearly every play.  Detroit’s run game was surprisingly effective early in the game, but once the defensive line settled down and started plugging holes, Mayo began to shine.  He stuffed a few runs at the line of scrimmage, and then when the Lions began to abandon the run game, Mayo made nearly every play on the underneath passing routes that the Lions ran.  Countless times Mayo and teammates would crush Nate Burleson and Brandon Pettigrew on catches that they made over the middle.  That’s what is needed and expected from a middle linebacker, and Jerod Mayo continues to deliver.  This guy deserves serious consideration for defensive MVP.  As far as I know, Devin McCourty has missed only one defensive snap the entire season.  It is for a good reason because McCourty is one heck of a football player.  As the season progresses and McCourty becomes more comfortable in the Patriots’ defensive scheme, his personal statistics are beginning to pile up.  McCourty recorded two interceptions against the Lions, which gives him 5 interceptions in his last six games.  The more I am afforded the opportunity to watch McCourty play, the more I see a shutdown corner in the making.  This kid is a special football player, and defensive rookie of the year might be one of many awards McCourty will win in his career.

-Prior to Thursday’s game, Tom Brady had thrown for over 300 yards only one time this season (week 10 @ Pittsburgh).  But, on Thursday Brady looked like the 2007 version of himself as he surgically picked apart the Lions defense en route to a 21 of 27 effort for 341 yards and 4 touchdowns, not to mention compiling a perfect passer rating.  Brady did a great job spreading the ball around, completing passes to seven different receivers.  What may have been more impressive than that was his reliance on his two top receivers, Deion Branch (3 catches, 113 yards, 2 touchdowns) and Wes Welker (8 catches, 90 yards, 2 touchdowns).  There has yet to be a game that both Branch and Welker had very good numbers, but Thursday proved to be the day.  Brandon Tate dropped a couple of key passes, which hurt the success of some drives, but Branch and Welker stepped up to pick up the slack.  Hopefully, their joint production will continue throughout the remainder of the season.

-Fred Taylor was active for Thursday’s game, but didn’t see any time on the field.  Thankfully, the Patriots didn’t need him.  BenJarvus Green-Ellis capitalized on the few carries that he got (12 carries, 59 yards, two touchdowns), finding his way into the end-zone twice.  I was wary of how much work BJGE would get with Taylor returning, and in the first half he very rarely saw the football (mainly because the Pats were forced to pass as they were down), but in the second half when he was called upon to ice the game and punch the ball into the end-zone, Green-Ellis delivered.  Looking ahead, a backfield consisting of BJGE, Danny Woodhead, Fred Taylor, and the occasional Sammy Morris sighting could be very effective complimenting Tom Brady and the passing attack.

NEXT WEEK’S PREDICTION: Patriots 20 – Jets 10

Week 11 – The Mattyoshow Review

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

-Whew!  That game was much closer than it had to be, but what else could be expected when the team on the opposite sideline is led by arguably the greatest quarterback to ever play.  Peyton was sent out their with his top three wide receivers (Wayne, Garcon, and Collie), but lost Collie by the end of the first quarter, and the tight end Tamme couldn’t seem to catch anything meaningful (even though he finished the day with 7 catches for 60 yards, he had a few key drops in the red zone). Interceptions by Devin McCourty, Brandon Meriweather, and James Sanders were all wonderfully timed, proving to be huge momentum changers (McCourty and Meriweather) and game sealers (Sanders).  The secondary was exposed a bit as Manning through for almost 400 yards and 4 touchdowns, but came up with big plays when needed.

-What more can be said about Jerod Mayo that already hasn’t been.  This guy is playing like a flat-out animal.  On Sunday he racked up another 11 tackles (with 4 assists) which gives him 120 combined tackles on the season, according to NFL.com.  Mayo seemed to be in on many more plays than the stats imply, making stops on almost every crossing route that the Colts tried to run.  The Colts, who tallied up a surprising 20 carries, but only amassed 71 yards.  That lack of rushing production was due in part to Mayo’s effectiveness, but also to the play of Vince Wilfork, Gary Guyton, Jermaine Cunningham, and Brandon Spikes.  It was an all around solid effort to slow the Colts’ rushing attack.

-I was very disappointed with the Pats’ inability to pressure Peyton Manning.  Granted, the Colts give up the fewest sacks in the NFL, so getting to him and putting him on the ground isn’t easy, but it’s not impossible either.  Cunningham and Banta-Cain couldn’t seem to generate a consistent enough pass rush to disrupt Manning’s rhythm.  That being said, James Sanders’ game sealing interception (on a drive where the Colts looked destined to score and win the game) was caused by pressure put on Manning by Tully Banta-Cain.  So, to be optimistic, I guess it could be said that the pass rushers have very good timing, but they need to do a better job more consistently reaching the qb.

-186 yards and 2 touchdowns is a stat line that you expect from Colt McCoy or Josh Freeman, not Tom Brady.  But, as we all know stats can often be very deceiving.  On Sunday, Brady delivered passes with pin point accuracy, connecting on 19 of his 25 passes.  Brady spread the ball around to six different receivers.  Noticeably missing from the stat sheet once again was speedster Brandon Tate.  Wonderfully showing near the top of the stat sheet was Wes Welker (5 catches, 58 yards, 1 touchdown), who grabbed his first touchdown since week 2 and has performed well in the second consecutive game.  I have made a big deal out of Welker’s ineffectiveness since the Moss trade, and I’m not ready to abandon my stance on that just yet.  Tate still needs to become a bigger part of this offense before Moss will become a distant memory.  But, Welker’s revitalization is something the certainly has me excited for the upcoming weeks.

NEXT WEEK’S PREDICTION – Patriots 34 – Lions 24

Week 10 – The Mattyoshow Review

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

-As I mentioned in the “What to Look For…” segment, this game was going to serve as a barometer to measure how realistic each team’s Super Bowl aspirations are.  The Patriots proved to the masses what most of us around New England already knew, they are one of the best teams in the NFL.  Even while atop the league in terms of the best record just two weeks ago (at 6-1) there were doubts surrounding the Pats.  Whether it was their anemic offense (which I’m still not convinced by) or the youth of their defense, people were doubting the supremacy of the New England Patriots.  But, after a marquee win on Sunday in Pittsburgh against one of the league’s best teams, the Patriots are not being recognized amongst the best in the NFL, and rightfully so.

-Against a Steelers defense that was allowing a stingy 58.2 yards per game on the ground, the Patriots’ rushing attack racked up a total of 103 yards on the ground, with BenJarvus Green-Ellis leading the way.  BJGE amassed 87 yards on 18 carries, which accounted for an impressive 4.8 yards per carry.  I was sure that the Steelers would stifle the Pats rushing attack, forcing Tom Brady into throwing the ball 50+ times.  Brady attempted 43 passes, which essentially accounted for the majority of the Patriots points, but Green-Ellis was the workhorse that brought the game home.  I continue to question the running back rotation deployed by coach Belichick, where BJGE gets 20 carries one game and 9 the next, but if its purpose is to keep all of the running back fresh down the stretch, then it looks like it is working.

-I would like to be one of the first people to officially welcome Wes Welker back to the New England Patriots.  After a 5 game hiatus, Welker has returned to his old self, reeling in 8 passes for 89 yards.  Granted, the Steelers’ secondary isn’t one of the better units in the league, but Welker had been an exceptionally minimal part of the offense ever since the departure of Randy Moss, so it was good to see him inserted back into a starring role.  Now, if we could only get Hernandez, Welker, Branch, and Tate rolling all on the same day this offense would be unbelievable.

-That being said, I’m still concerned over the same one thing.  Yes, Brandon Tate caught a 45 yard pass.  Yes, Tom Brady threw for 350 yards and 3 touchdowns.  Yes, the Patriots scored the most points against the Steelers in Heinz Field history.  Call me a pessimist, but Brandon Tate needs to involve into a better receiver than he is.  He missed all of 2009 with a knee injury, so he is essentially a rookie.  But this is our deep threat.  Brandon Tate is our Mike Wallace.  Not expected to be the number one guy (see Hines Ward in Pittsburgh and Welker in New England), but expected to be a sparkplug for the offense.  I understand that the Patriots have a ton of weapons and have the ability to use them all.  I don’t care if I come off like a crazy Pats fan that will accept nothing but perfection.  I’m not convinced that this offense can succeed week in and week out without Tate consistently making an impact on the game, especially with downfield threats.

– A week after Peyton Hillis had the best game of his career against the Patriots defense, that same unit held the Pittsburgh Steelers to 76 yards rushing.  What is even more impressive than the yardage itself is that Roethlisberger got 12 of those 76 yards on a late game scramble, and Mendenhall grabbed 34 of those yards on a long scamper in the first half.  So aside from those two plays, the Patriots allowed only 30 yards rushing.  Mendenhall is one of the better backs in the league, and he was held to 50 yards on 11 carries.  He didn’t play much in the second half, leading me to believe that he sustained some sort of injury.  But, the defense stepped up and rebounded after a disastrous week and notched one of their best performances of the year.

NEXT WEEK’S PREDICTION – Patriots 37 – Colts 35