Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas
Nobody feels sorry for the New England Patriots. Nor should they. But the notion that they’re not a very good football team or that they’re going to be a .500 or so team or that they’re not going to make the playoffs is ridiculous. Whether you know it or not, the Patriots have (based on their opponents’ record from a year ago) the EASIEST schedule in the NFL this season. Frankly, while nobody would talk about it in the pre-season (nor should they have), there was a chance that the Patriots could have made a run at 16-0 AGAIN. That won’t happen now, but they were a virtual lock to win at least 14 games if Tom Brady had stayed healthy throughout the year.
But he didn’t. So, where does that leave the Patriots in the overall scheme of things? Where does that leave the Patriots in the AFC East? Well, it says here that they still have a great shot to win the AFC East and make a run at the Super Bowl.
How good is Matt Cassel? Well, according to Phil Simms, he has all the tools. Big, strong, very good arm, he certainly has a chance to be a very good NFL quarterback. He actually looks a little like Tom Brady, standing in the pocket, delivering an early 51-yard bomb to Randy Moss against the Chiefs, throwing from his own end zone. How many quarterbacks can do that? Not many. Cassel’s been around for four years. He hasn’t played much, but he’s no rookie and he knows the system.
Where does that leave the Jets? Fighting for a wild card, it says here. The Jets were 4-12 a year ago but they’ve totally re-loaded. But with Brett Favre at the helm, they were all out to beat the Dolphins, who will be better this year but are a year or two away from being a good team. This is a big game for the Jets, but the Patriots have an awful lot of experience, an awful lot of talent (even without the great Brady) and the best coach in the NFL (don’t you think he’s got something up his sleeve for Favre? I do.).
It’s the schedule, stupid. A conservative guess on the Patriots’ record in the AFC East is 4-2. They shouldn’t have any problem beating the Seahawks and Raiders on the road and the (improved) Cardinals at home in December. They’ve already beaten the Chiefs. So if they can split their other six games (Broncos, Rams, Steelers at home, 49ers, Chargers, Colts on the road), a distinct possibility, especially the way the Chargers and Colts played in Week 1, the Patriots can win the AFC East with an 11-5 record. And, again, that’s being conservative.
The Patriots have an excellent defensive front seven and their secondary is already improved with Bengal reject (explanation, please?) Deltha O’Neal (he already made two great plays late in the game against the Chiefs). They’ve got a few injuries on offense but, much like Brady did when he replaced Drew Bledsoe on their way to his first Super Bowl, Cassel has the ability to manage the game and even do more than Brady did his first time around (with weapons like Wes Welker and Moss). Their running game (Maroney, Morris, Faulk and Jordan) is more than adequate but now, of course, more important than before Brady was injured. The offensive line will improve as the season goes on and, if they beat the Jets on the road in Week 2, the sky will be the limit.
Many people seem to think that the Jets (and maybe even the improved Buffalo Bills) have jumped over the Patriots in the AFC East. It’s hard to believe that people would ignore or discount greatly the winning system that the Patriots have instituted since Brady started playing on a regular basis. While the most important cog is gone for the season, the system, the talent and the coaching should be more than enough for the Patriots to still have a huge season. We’ll see.
© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas. All rights reserved.