Saturday, December 15, 2007

How Good are the Patriots?

Recently, With Malice asked some bloggers to discuss who would win a matchup between the 1992 and 2008 U.S. Olympic basketball teams. That brought forth some interesting replies, inspiring him to turn his attention to this interesting hypothetical two part question: Are The Pats REALLY That Good? Or is the NFL that bad?

Click on the above link to read all of the panel's responses. Here is my take:

We can’t definitively answer this question until after the Super Bowl. For the sake of discussion, let’s assume that the Patriots go 19-0. If the Dolphins go 0-16 then two of the Patriots’ wins would have come against one of the worst teams ever--but the Patriots also beat the defending Super Bowl champions (Indianapolis), the best regular season team in the NFC this year (Dallas) and a strong Pittsburgh team that many experts thought matched up perfectly with New England. Overall, the Patriots are playing a stronger schedule than the 1972 Dolphins did and are winning their games by a wider margin.

I don’t see any evidence that the NFL is “that bad.” Years ago, Commissioner Pete Rozelle tried to create parity and that has been a major characteristic of the league not just this year but for quite some time, which makes what New England is doing even more remarkable. New England’s success this season has to be placed in the context of the fact that the Patriots’ coach-quarterback duo not only has already won three Super Bowls but also set an NFL record in 2003-04 by winning 18 straight regular season games (21 in a row if you count the 2003 playoffs); that is a powerful reason to believe that the Patriots will go 19-0--they’ve already won that many games in a row before and they did it with a team that, on paper, was not as strong as this year’s squad. Remember when some pundits suggested that the departure of assistant coaches Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel would be New England’s undoing? The 2007 Patriots are first in the league by wide margins in points scored and yards gained--and their recently maligned defense is fourth in yards against and fourth in points allowed, resulting in a scoring differential of 21.6 ppg, much better than any of New England’s Super Bowl teams. That differential is more than 15 of the 32 NFL teams score on average!

Back in October, I wrote the following in a post titled Tom Brady is Rewriting the Record Book:

Is Brady the greatest quarterback ever? That sounds like a sacrilegious question but Brady only needs one Super Bowl ring to match Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana (four each). What are we supposed to think if Brady wins his fourth Super Bowl after shattering the single season statistical standards set by the likes of Manning and Dan Marino?

If Brady maintains his lofty individual numbers and the Patriots go 19-0 en route to winning a fourth Super Bowl title in seven years--an amazing feat in the free agency era--then not only would the Patriots have to be on the very short list of greatest teams of all-time but serious consideration would have to be given to ranking Brady as the greatest quarterback in NFL history. At that point, he would be a combination of Dan Marino and Terry Bradshaw--the ultimate numbers guy and the ultimate winner.

No comments: