Well, having the Rams game on our DVR during the bye week was, as my father used to say, not too shabby.
New England wrapped up Part I of the season on a jolly good note. Throughout the first eight games, they’ve performed excellently in some stretches (the second half at Buffalo, the last 57 minutes in London against St. Louis) inconsistently in others (losing fourth-quarter leads at home to the Jets and at Effing Seattle).
Let’s consider the upcoming second half as a sequel that improves on the original. Much like, oh, Cannonball Run II, for example.
We predicted a 3-1 record this quarter but, for the second month in a row, chose an incorrect victorious opponent. Here’s your monthly review/preview …
Game Five Prediction: DEN 27, NE 24
Actual Result: NE 31, DEN 21
Despite Broncos QB Peyton Manning passing for over 300 yards, his team lost, largely due to the home squad’s rapacious running game and near-maniacal efficiency on offense (35 first downs in 89 plays). Meanwhile, the defense coerced more balls onto the ground than a yoga instructor at a nudist colony.
Overall, a strong win for New England, making the following week’s debacle all the more bothersome.
Game Six Prediction: NE 20, SEA 16
Actual Result: SEA 24, NE 23
We had a nagging feeling the Pats might screw the pooch on this one; however, we failed to realize they would take the pooch down to Cape Cod for the weekend, feed it oysters, lobster and a special-order chocolate soufflé, and give it an engagement ring before carrying it over the threshold of the honeymoon suite.
Seattle deserves credit for stopping the run and taking advantage of New England’s egregious mistakes. The Patriots had more screw-ups in the red zone than Gary Powers. Must have been a tough game to lose, because it sure was difficult to watch.
Game Seven Prediction: NE 30, NYJ 20
Actual Result: NE 29, NYJ 26
Watching the Patriots secondary play defense is like watching a loved one struggle through “The Star Spangled Banner.” It’s stressful, even embarrassing, and we know the ending will not go well at all.
We predicted the Patriots would be able to control this game, and despite several miscues, they held a 23-13 lead going into the fourth quarter. Which, of course, led to a 26-23 deficit. (While the defense struggled in the fourth, it should also be mentioned that, throughout the game, receiver Brandon Lloyd produced more drops than the Smith Brothers.)
Remember the good old days, when the Patriots never, ever lost a fourth-quarter lead? We do, but it’s getting more and more difficult.
Game Eight Prediction: NE 28, STL 20
Actual Result: NE 45, STL 7
Ahem. Yup, just like we predicted: a real see-saw battle.
After St. Louis held a brief 7-0 lead, New England took over the field like Montgomery at the Battle of El Alamein (hey, it’s London, we’ve got to have a WWII reference), embarking on an unstoppable 45-0 run.
This result becomes all the more impressive in the face of the Patriots missing tight end Aaron Hernandez and both of their starting safeties. Now at 5-3 and bolstered in the defensive backfield with Aqib Talib, New England can tend to some of those aches and gear up for Part II.
2012 THIRD QUARTER PREDICTIONS
Vs. BUFFALO (Sun, Nov. 11, 1p.m.) – NE 31, BUF 23
Will the Pats continue the Bills onslaught they began in the third quarter of Orchard Park? Will their offense score at will as they did in London vs. St. Louis, or will Foxboro’s Dr. Jekyll defer to his lesser half?
This week, we see New England using the momentum from their bye week to get a big lead and hang on.
Vs. INDIANAPOLIS (Sun, Nov. 18, 4:25 p.m.)* – NE 28, IND 23
*Edited to reflect flex time from 1 p.m.
We know this: Whether he’s facing Talib or not, Colts QB Andrew Luck should have success moving his offense up and down the field. He’ll get his 300-plus yards and continue to earn the adulation he’s received as a rookie.
We hope this: that New England’s defense will be able to stop the visitors from getting into the end zone on a number of occasions, fighting for field goals over TDs.
Meanwhile, Indy’s defense has been somewhat forgiving, meaning the Patriots should be able to mix the run and pass effectively.
At NEW YORK (Thu, Nov. 22, 8:20 p.m.) – NE 27, NYJ 26
The Jets have such a weird team, don’t they? They ended up one dropped pass away from pulling off a huge upset at Foxboro two weeks ago, then they offered up a dungfest in front of their home crowd vs. Miami. Who knows what they’ll have after their bye week.
Hey, New York could get blown out on Thanksgiving. Their season could effectively end in Seattle next Sunday. For our part, we can only believe that the Jets will take this game as their last, best opportunity – holiday, home crowd, national broadcast – to get back into the hunt in the AFC East.
At Miami (Sun, Dec. 2, 1 p.m.) – NE 30, MIA 24
Rookie QB Ryan Tannehill has done some positive things for a Miami squad most of us left for dead this season. He should produce yardage against New England’s secondary, so the Patriots will have to get theirs, too.
And they should. Defensively, the Dolphins have made positive strides this year, but the length of those strides would have to compare favorably to Rob Gronkowski’s to make up the difference.
We expect the Patriots’ defense to mesh better and the offense to find its rhythm by the end of November, setting the team up for success late.
Predicted record for Games Nine through Twelve: 4-0
Predicted record after 12 games: 9-3
Predicted season record: 11-5
You can email Chris Warner happy tidings at [email protected]