Pats Bye Some Rest, Predictions Review

So, despite failing to show up against a handful of opponents, regardless of some occasional offensive inconsistency and a defensive backfield with plenty of consistency (albeit that of Swiss cheese), here New England sits, AFC East champs with a first-round bye.

And they could use it. From tight end Rob Gronkowski’s glass arm to the shaky status of cornerback Aqib Talib, this week of rest comes at a great time.

First, a quick review of our (not-so-great) predictions for Games 13 through 16.

FOURTH QUARTER PREDICTION REVIEW

Game 13 Prediction: HOU 30, NE 27

Actual Result: NE 42, HOU 14

Sometimes, being wrong feels right. The Patriots raced out to a 21-0 lead and kept the pressure throughout the second half. Surprising to watch the Texans fold in the face of adversity; we thought QB Matt Schaub could offer more than that.

New England apparently showed the rest of the league a few things, as Houston went from a dominant-seeming 10-1 to an all-too-human 12-4 over their last four games, losing the first-round bye in the process.

Game 14 Prediction: NE 20, SF 16

Actual Result: SF 41, NE 34

Sometimes, being wrong feels wrong. The home team must have been in the holiday mood, as the Pats gave away four footballs on the night. The heroic second-half efforts of Tom Brady, and Lil’ Danny Woodhead knotted the score at 31, but San Francisco got the lead back and held on to win.

Hey, remember back in September when those NFC West games made New England’s schedule look super easy? The Pats went 1-3 vs. those guys.

Still can’t believe they lost to Arizona. The Cardinals didn’t realize that would be their high point of 2012.

Game 15 Prediction: NE 31, JAX 20

Actual Result: NE 23, JAX 16

After two much-ballyhooed matchups, New England figuratively trudged over to Grandma’s house to play Crazy Eights for four hours. They overcame a double-digit deficit to tie it at halftime, then broke out to a 23-13 lead and hung on.

The good? New England’s D allowed only 16 points while getting two red zone turnovers. The bad? Whatever the hell went on between Brady and his receivers. Sitcom fathers and teenage daughters communicate better.

Game 16 Prediction: MIA 27, NE 24

Actual Result: NE 28, MIA 0

Oof, what a prediction. In my defense, I figured the Pats would be out of bye contention (thanks again, Houston late-season swoon!) and would sit starters. Instead, Bradypassed for two TDs while the defense came up with seven sacks and pitched their first shutout of the season.

Two positives heading into the bye: Brady seemed to rediscover some of his rhythm (at least with most of his receivers – see below), and the Pats did a solid job running the football (167 yards) vs. a strong rushing defense (108 yards-against average).

Predicted 2012 Fourth Quarter Record: 2-2

Actual 2012 Fourth Quarter Record: 3-1

Predicted Season Record: 11-5

Actual Season Record: 12-4

 

PLAYOFF POINTS

A few things to consider heading into the bye week…

Do’s and Dont’a: Hey, um, Dont’a Hightower? We all understand the desire to hit the opposing quarterback, but penalties on third and long don’t really help the cause. The fact you later went out of your way to lay a hit on Ryan Tannehill near the sideline (legal, but you never know in today’s NFL) shows that maybe you failed to take the earlier message into account.

Logan Err Port: The left guard position has not been the same this year, as Logan Mankins has been injured and a bit off. A frequent guest on the Mike Reiss penalty count on ESPN’s Patriots blog, Mankins made another appearance this week with an offsides demerit.

Listen, you can’t question Mankins’ toughness, especially after playing most of last season on a knee held together with athletic tape and an old-school, New-England-style mindset (If I ignore it, it will go away). The O-line works better with him playing. It would just work even more effectively without the slip-ups.

Rob-bing Ninko To Pay Gronk: Looks like one Rob for the other, as linebacker Rob Ninkovich sustained a hip injury during the same game tight end Gronkowski returned. While Ninkovich’s status remains murky for the playoffs, there’s no question how much the bye week will benefit Gronkowski, as he tended to favor his forearm like he was cradling a Faberge egg.

Lighten Up, Francis: Or, now that we think of it, don’t. Undrafted rookie Justin Francis has demonstrated why Coach Bill Belichick and Co. thought it a good ideer to keep him around. Three sacks for the Rutgers alum, who benefited from active participation from fellow rookie Chandler Jones, Brandon Deaderick (one sack), Vince Wilfork (of course) and Trevor Scott (one sack).

Lloyd! Man, if Brandon Lloyd could, like … I mean, if he would just … I don’t know. You know? One week, he seems like he’s really starting to get it, arriving on time to where Brady’s throwing the ball. The next week, the QB-WR tandem hooks up about as often as high school me and Molly Ringwald (she never answered my letters. Hm. Sad).

With defenses clogging up the middle of the field to combat the short routes of Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez and Gronkowski, Lloyd’s performance will come under a microscope in two weeks.

But for now, the Patriots have time.

Whatever you do, do NOT email Chris Warner at [email protected]

  • http://twitter.com/saundep PS

    Wow Chris Warner, way to channel your inner Felger/Mazz. From your 11-5 predicition including them losing to Miami to your snide comments below:

    “albeit that of Swiss cheese”. Cheep shot. How about focusing on the fact that they are much improved over last years D despite adding several rookies into the rotation.

    ” Rob Gronkowski’s glass arm” Really?? Dude is a warrior. I think your head is made of glass with a comment like that. The mere fact that the guy not only played but scored a touchdown when the team needed to win a big game should be lauded not his “glass arm”. Save this type of crap for your audition at 98.5 or WEEI.

    • http://twitter.com/DryHeave1 DryHeave

      Best I can figure, Warner is BSMW’s resident nit-picker. Oh, the pursuit of the “Perfect” team, such a tall task. Like trying to find “Bigfoot” …. on a side note, pretty sure Warner is a big reason “Patriots Daily” went out of business….I know, I know, Chris, it’s not your job to be a cheerleader (and all that crap)

      • Chris Warner

        Wow, DH. Talk about a cheep shot! Yeesh.

        I actually think, if you read the entire paragraph as a summary of the ups and downs of this season, it’s pretty optimistic about what this team can do. (if you check last month’s column, the penultimate sentence ends with “positive things will happen,” contingent on the Pats getting healthy.) No, they aren’t perfect, and sometimes it seems as though they’re trying to be (no QB gets more upset with himself than Brady, it seems), but I think – especially with the bye – they’re primed for a memorable playoff run. As far as predicting 11-5 in September and the team finishing 12-4, I can’t say I’m ashamed of that, especially considering their slow start and steady improvement, both of which we called at the beginning of the season.

        By the way, no love for thinking they’d beat SF? How about my idea that they’d comfortably get by Jacksonville? Do I get credit for incorrect predictions that were overly optimistic, or do you just point out where the Pats performed better than anticipated? Please read these columns again, and note that, while I’m sometimes pessimistic (as many Pats fans are), I always have a reason for feeling that way, whether it’s defensive tendencies or the ability of specific opponents to take away aspects of NE’s offense. (Or, sometimes, just historically playing like crap in certain stadiums.) The Patriots are a great team and they have been so for over a decade now. It’s a pleasure and a privilege to write a column on them, and if I ever demonstrate any other outlook, I apologize for not being clearer.

        Thanks for writing in.

    • Chris Warner

      Happy New Year, PS. Just some quick stats: New England gave up over 271 yards passing per game (29th in the league) and allowed a league-worst 74 passes of 20 yards or more. If you re-read that paragraph, you’ll see that I’m saying that despite some inconsistencies, the Pats have earned a bye. That is to say, they’ve gotten their act together and also received one necessary break (Houston’s loss at Indy).

      Also, in regards to the prediction of losing to Miami, if you click on the link and read it, or link from that column to the comment section from September’s column, you’ll see that the Miami loss was always contingent upon New England’s playoff status. I believed that, at 11-4, the Pats would be out of contention for a first-round bye and would rest starters (i.e., take a self-imposed bye), resulting in a Miami win. With the bye as an option, NE played with determination and played well. Well-deserved, complete win, I thought.

      As far as Gronkowski, my comments are more about the depth of the injury than about questioning his toughness. (See: Mankins, Logan.) If Gronk doesn’t feel comfortable putting his hand out for a high-five after a TD (much less blocking an opponent), then he needs time for healing and confidence. Sorry I wasn’t more clear about the above issues.

  • Half Fast

    Hey Chris Warner – how dare you have an opinion that doesn’t kiss the Patriots azz.?

    • Chris Warner

      That’s me, HF: total outlier. I’m a rebel! I can’t be contained! I predicted 11-5 and they went 12-4! Take that, Mr. Kraft!

      Seriously, thank you for writing in, and may the joys of a successful 2013 playoffs be upon you.