Well, in light of the Patriots 4-0 run in Games Nine through 12, we here at BSMW have a lot of pressure on us to pick their final record.
While we thought the Patriots would lead the AFC East, the fact they clinched with four games left surprised us. It could also change how they go about playing these last regular-season games. Not a terrible problem to have, really.
Now, a quick look back at our previous look forward:
THIRD QUARTER PREDICTION REVIEW
Game Nine Prediction: NE 31, BUF 23
Actual Result: NE 37, BUF 31
Even closer than we predicted, a bit of a surprise due to a) New England’s four quarters of dominance over St. Louis just before the bye week, and b) their onslaught up in Buffalo during the second half of Game Four.
Blame bye week rust or underestimating their opponent; just be grateful that the real Ryan Fitzpatrick showed up to throw a game-ending pick.
Game 10 Prediction: NE 28, IND 23
Actual Result: NE 59, IND 24
Whoosh. A back-and-forth contest at halftime (24-17, Pats) got about as tense as a brownie party at your weird cousin’s house as New England beat the visiting Colts in every aspect. Julian Edelman returned a punt for a TD and caught another, allaying concerns about the release of Deion Branch.
(The following line was written before Edelman was seen using crutches.) Now if he could just stay healthy. Like Rob Gronkowski. (Damnit all.)
One day, all Patriots receivers could make it to the game-day roster. And what a glorious day that would become.
Game 11 Prediction: NE 27, NYJ 26
Actual Result: NE 49, NYJ 19
Ha. Heh, heh. Jets.
In what may forever be remembered as “Those 52 Seconds,” the visiting Patriots scored three touchdowns in a blur of offense (swing pass to Shane Vereen), defense (Mark Sanchez butt fumble/Steve Gregory scoop ‘n’ score) and special teams (Edelman fumble gift return) that knocked the hope out of MetLife Stadium. And during the prime time Thanksgiving game, no less. Just brutal.
On a similar note, does anyone else remember being jealous of Jets fans? Fifteen years ago, they took Coach Bill Parcells, who took running back Curtis Martin. And then-NYJ DC Bill Belichick always seemed to get the better of Drew Bledsoe and company.
Funny how times change. Maybe not Sanchez-butt-fumble-level funny, but still.
Game 12 Prediction: NE 30, MIA 24
Actual Result: NE 23, MIA 16
Weird game – probably a little closer than New England fans wanted – but the Pats deserve credit for hanging tough despite losing Edelman partway through and going into the contest without Gronkowski, a slew of healthy offensive linemen, rookie defensive end Chandler Jones and numbskull pass rusher Jermaine Cunningham.
(Seriously, Jermaine? Adderall? Ever hear of Diet Dr. Pepper? How tired are you?)
Wes Welker (12 catches for 103 yards) and Aaron Hernandez (eight for 97) provided more wide-open Targets than a weekend in Minneapolis, while Stevan Ridley came on strong when needed (46 of his 71 yards rushing in the fourth). On the visitors’ final, fan-satisfying drive, the Pats suddenly ran they way they wanted to, holding the ball for over seven minutes before Stephen Gostkowski kicked the game- (and division-) clinching field goal.
So, how we looking for the final four tilts of 2012, you ask?
2012 FOURTH QUARTER PREDICTIONS
Vs. Houston (Monday, Dec. 10, 8:30 p.m.) – HOU 30, NE 27
Unlike some of the quarterbacks New England has faced recently, Texans QB Matt Schaub actually can find his own ass with both hands. Though there’s no denying the Patriots defense has improved, we worry that Pats cornerback Aqib Talib has been falling for double moves like a black lab chasing a fake tennis ball throw. That needs some work.
Schaub’s ability and the running of Arian Foster will provide harder tests than your least favorite math teacher. Also, lacking Gronk and probably Edelman puts more pressure on Welker and Hernandez. (Just a thought, but once Brandon Lloyd leaves, maybe we should put the kibosh on jersey number 85 for a season or two). Houston’s pressure on passing downs will spell trouble for the still-depleted home team.
But hey, it’s fine; it’s fine: the whole “first-round bye” thing gets overrated anyway.
Vs. San Francisco (Sunday, Dec. 16, 8:20 p.m.) – NE 20, SF 16
Niners QB Colin Kaepernick has shown some good things over the last few weeks, but he couldn’t quite do enough this past Sunday in St. Louis. The Patriots won’t put up their usual numbers, but if their defense can stop the San Francisco run game, that would provide more welcome signs for New Englanders than South of the Border.
At Jacksonville (Sunday, Dec. 23, 1 p.m.) – NE 31, JAX 20
Jaguars (and former Dolphins) QB Chad Henne has always caused problems for the Patriots, at least until his efficiency disappears and he throws a pick or two. Watch for this one to be close in the first half before the Patriots pull away via solid, consistent drives and momentum-shifting turnovers.
Now, at their hypothetical 11-4, New England has a choice. Hmm …
You know what? We made our bed in September with 11-5; we’re lying in it.
Vs. Miami (Sunday, Dec. 30, 1 p.m.) – MIA 27, NE 24
How’s it going, Ryan Mallett? Paying attention, Brandon Bolden? Better limber up, Jake Bequette and various special teamers whose names we can’t think of right now, because bye week or no, the Patriots will take time to rest their starters heading into the playoffs.
And then – with the possibility of a rested Gronkowski, Jones and Logan Mankins – positive things will happen.
At least, that’s our prediction.
Predicted record for Games 13 through 16: 2-2
Predicted season record: 11-5
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