My Dad’s relationship with football was much different than my own. He tried out for his high school team, got soundly run over in what I can only imagine was an Oklahoma drill, and walked off the field, never to return. This experience colored his view of football, which resulted in him not being anywhere near as passionate a football fan as we was a baseball fan. Sure he’d watch a game if it were on and he mostly understood it conceptually, he just wasn’t invested. It probably didn’t help that the Patriots weren’t any good, didn’t exist until he was 11, and were never on TV due to blackout rules, but I truly think his brief playing experience was the key to how he felt about football.
For me football was interesting, but I wasn’t allowed to play due to my pectus excavatum surgery as a 2 year old, but when Bill Parcells and Drew Bledsoe I started to take a big interest. I watched a lot of football in college and played a lot of Madden so I had started to grasp the game conceptually, but I had no real football experience. So I half drunkenly asked the local semi-pro football coach (and family friend) if I could help out in any way and in turn learn the game from the sidelines. He agreed and the next May I found myself on the sidelines of a football team tracking play calling and learning about pro-style offense and 5-2 defense.
This fascinated my Dad. He always expected me to coach, but he expected me to coach baseball and here I was learning about powers and isos and traps. I learned pretty quickly and it turned watching the NFL into a whole new thing for me. Now I watch every game, take notes and write about it. So while I didn’t often watch with my Dad when I did my ability to “see” what about to happen or to explain what just happened and have it affirmed by replay, fascinated him. In that neat way that the child comes home and translates what they have learned back to their parents.
And so I’m going to miss mocking Phil Sims to my Dad. I’m going to miss explaining the nuances of the game. I’m going to miss telling him (again) that I saw that little thing happen because little things jump out when you watch hundreds of hours of game film. It’s not like I’ve stopped missing my Dad since he passed and I don’t imagine I ever will, but it’s days like today that make it sting again, as if the pain were brand new.
So here is what I would have told my Dad when he asked me what was going to happen during the Pats 2016 season.
Week 1 – Sunday 9-11-16 – Patriots @ Cardinals – Sunday Night Football – 8:30
I’m not sure if we should call it the “Jimmy the Savior G-sus Era” or the “Brady Suspension Era” or the “Goodell treats the Patriots Like Marcellus Wallace in Pulp Fiction Era”, but for the first time since 2001 the Pats will send out a QB not named Tom Brady to begin the year.
And holy fuck what a tough first game. A cross country flight, a 5:30 west coast start time, against one of the best 3 teams in the NFC.
Welcome to the NFL Jimmy G-Sus!
Can the Patriots win this game? Sure, I’m not counting this Pats team out of any game with that defense, even without Brady, but I wouldn’t have the Pats favored even if Brady was playing.
So what do Belichick and McDaniels do you manage Jimmy G-Sus and try to win the game? They control the clock and keep the Arizona offense on the sideline and not just winning time of possession, but dominating it. 40 out of 60 minutes of offense type of domination. I expect them to run the ball directly at Chandler Jones who struggles at stopping the run when he is the target of ISOs, Traps and Powers and that should get them 4ish yard a carry. If they can do that they can hold the ball between the 20s easily and then hope their goal line offense is better than the Arizona goal line defense.
How do the Pats contain that offense? First, like I said above, hold the ball as long as possible. Second, hit Carson Palmer and jam his WRs at the line. There offense is speed and rhythm based, upset either and they fall apart and Palmer throws picks. Third, don’t try and stop David Johnson from getting yards, but keep him contained and in bounds keeping the clock running.
Even if they do all that effectively it likely won’t be enough.
Cardinals 20, Pats 17
Week 2 – Sunday 9-18-16 – Dolphins @ Patriots – 1:00 p.m.
The Dolphins still reeling from their visit to the Pacific Northwest in week 1 still don’t have it together and lose to the Pats in their home opener.
While the Dolphins have some nice players and I think first year head coach Adam Gase could be the real deal, they aren’t ready to open the season @Seattle, @New England and do anything but lose both games.
Patriots 24, Dolphins 17
Week 3 – Thursday 9-22-16 – Texans @ Patriots – Thursday Night Football 8:25 p.m.
If you read my league preview you know I have the Texans imploding and regretting Brock Osweiler. They can’t pull it out here in New England either. They have never played too well in New England, even that time they all worse their Varsity Jackets.
Patriots 23, Texans 13
Week 4 – Sunday 10-2-16 – Bills @ Patriots – 1 p.m.
Oh the Bills. I think the biggest question mark surrounding this game is will Rex Ryan still be the coach by week 4?
Patriots 31, Bills 16
Week 5 – Sunday 10-9-16 – Patriots @ Browns – 1 p.m.
The return of Tom Brady. It gets ugly in Cleveland, but that’s ok they are used to their team being bad.
Patriots 41, Browns 17
Week 6 – Sunday 10-16-16 – Bengals @ Patriots – 1 p.m.
Brady continues rolling, but the Bengals put up one hell of a fight against the defense. A.J. Green is a monster.
Patriots 24, Bengals 23
Week 7 – Sunday 10-23-16 – Patriots at Steelers – 4:25 p.m.
The Steelers give the Pats their second loss on the season. It’s hard to play in Heinz Field and the Steelers defense has started to come together. Were this game a 2 weeks earlier the Pats may be able to steal it, but by mid October the Steelers tend to have their deficiencies figured out, especially at home.
Steelers 31, Patriots 17
Week 8 – Sunday 10-30-16 – Patriots @ Bills – 1 p.m.
Is Rex Ryan still the coach in Buffalo? Why? My Friend Craig had gotta be pissed.
Patriots 38, Bills 20
Week 9 – BYE
Week 10 – Sunday 11-13-16 – Seahawks @ Patriots – Sunday Night Football 8:30 p.m.
The Seahawks have the unlucky experience of coming to Foxboro for a night game the week after the Patriots bye. That’s just damn unlucky.
Patriots 27, Seahawks 24
Week 11 – Sunday 11-20-16 – Patriots @ 49ers – 4:25 p.m.
Oh the 49ers. While I think Chip Kelly should have taken a year off, he is a quality NFL coach, but he certainly doesn’t have the horses in the stable to beat any of the NFL’s elite teams. And Brady won’t want to lose in his home town.
Patriots 28, 49ers 13
Week 12 – Sunday 11-27-16 – Patriots @ Jets – Sunday Night Football 8:30 p.m.
This is the game that gave me the most pause. If the Jets are any good, they should win this game. Pats have the Seahawks, then fly across the country, then fly to New York. I’m just not sold on the Jets being particularly good, even though I like their coach, a lot. We will call it a coin flip game I guess, and I’m a Pats fan, so I’ll pick the Pats to win.
Patriots 21, Jets 20
Week 13 – Sunday 12-4-16 – Rams @ Patriots – 1 p.m.
At this point I imagine Jeff Fisher, and all his players, will know he is being fired and is just there to play out the string.
Patriots 35, Rams 13
Week 14 – Monday 12-12-16 – Ravens @ Patriots – Monday Night Football 8:30 p.m.
This could be a tough game or it could be a walkover. While the Ravens talent seems to stay consistent year in and year out, at some point the Harbaugh coaching style just isn’t going to work anymore. Were there signs of that last year? I think so, but the loss of Joe Flacco for the year certainly bought him some time to reinvent himself. I still don’t think they have the horses to be the team they were 4 or 5 years ago.
Patriots 27, Ravens 17
Week 15 – Sunday 12-18-16 – Patriots @ Broncos – 4:25 p.m.
The Bronco’s defense is just enough worse than last year that they are 1 injury away from needing their offense to be good, which it isn’t and C.J. Anderson has never proved he can be the guy for 16 games and he is their entire offense right now. Unless Paxton Lynch comes in and throws better balls to Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders the Broncos faithful should just reflect on 2015 and be happy.
Patriots 21, Broncos 10
Week 16 – Saturday 12-24-16 – Jets @ Patriots – 1 p.m.
Patriots beat up on the Jets a bit here. Making a bit of a pre-playoff statement.
Patriots 35, Jets 13
Week 17 – Sunday 1-1-16 – Patriots @ Dolphins – 1 p.m.
The Pats shouldn’t lose this game, but if they don’t need it for seeding purposes I don’t see them trying very hard either. They always struggle in Miami in December/January so I see no reason to expect them to win. I’m going to pick them to win, because they have the better talent and the better coach, but that isn’t always enough.
Patriots 24, Dolphins 21