Saturday, January 12, 2008

An extremely arrogant post about the Patriots

I suppose I should be nervous for the Patriots tonight against preening mastermind Jack Del Rio and his jacked-and-pumped Jacksonville Jaguars. After all, pretty much everything I've heard and seen this week about the game has had a common, terribly worrisome theme:

Jacksonville can win this football game. Oh, yes, they can. And we're going to spend the next 30 minutes murdering all common sense and logic by telling you how.

Now, maybe I've been getting my Trey Wingo fix at all the wrong times, and maybe all of the simpering Schlereths, concussed Hoges, and blathering Baylesses have been giving the Patriots the proper respect.

Surely at some point perhaps they mentioned the record point total and the record point differential as signs of the Patriots' historically unmatched dominance. Surely they gave them their due for beating just about every legitimate heavyweight challenger along the way, having decked Indy and Dallas on the road, and knocked out San Diego at home. (If only they got to knock around that phony Favre, too.)

Yes, surely they mentioned that at this particular moment in time, the New England Patriots are blessed to take the field with, arguably, the best coach, the best quarterback, and the best wide receiver in the history of the league. Surely they mentioned that the Patriots have a greater depth of talent than any team has a right to in the salary cap era. Surely they mentioned these things while I was looking away. (And don't call me Shirley.)

But I have not heard them say these things, at least not nearly often enough given their significance in foretelling what might happen tonight, and because of that I can come to only the obvious conclusion: The vast majority of football pundits - and, I assume, fans who don't have an allegiance - would like nothing better than for the Patriots to follow up their unbeaten regular season with a winless postseason.

And to that I say this: I will remember to shed a tear for all of the poor, clueless souls who rooted and bet against the Patriots after they walk off the Gillette Stadium turf with another convincing victory over another talented, hopelessly overmatched opponent tonight. No, wait, check that: I'll be honest here. I won't feel their pain. Not an ounce of it. I'll smirk, smugly celebrate, and make Massholish sarcastic remarks, just like I'm doing now. What can I say, the Patriots' us-against-the-world attitude seems to be rubbing off on their fanbase. (Look, I'm even exaggerating perceived sleights, just like they do! Go Pats!)

Now, in all seriousness, I don't mean to suggest the Jaguars aren't worthy of respect, at least in certain aspects. The running backs, as I'm sure you have heard, are outstanding. Maurice Jones-Drew is a relentless dynamo, a Tasmanian Devil in cleats, and I'm sure he will pose a problem for the Pats' D on some level. And I'm a longtime fan of his running mate in the Jags' backfield, Fred Taylor. There was a time not so long ago when I thought he was the most complete runner in the NFL, a devastating combination of power and elusiveness, and he deserves endless credit for efficiently chugging along a decade into a career that often seemed like it would be cut short by injuries.

There are other characters and characteristics to admire. Quarterback David Garrard is bright and efficient. The defense is tough and mean. And as Football Outsiders whiz Aaron Schatz pointed out, their offense was actually superior to the Patriots' over the last half of the season. So, yes, I agree with the TV hairdos, bloviators, and Ordways - this is not a team to be taken lightly, even if Del Rio is playing Candy Land to Bill Belichick's chess.

But that's the point, dummy. The Patriots won't take them lightly. This team has been on a vengeful mission since a few hours after Mangini's goons confiscated that freakin' camera. They want to shut up the '72 Dolphins once and for all. They want their critics to shove their snarky asterisks where they will never see daylight again. They wanted 16-0, and you know they can taste 19-0. They want to be regarded as the greatest team in league history, dammit, and they are too talented, too well-prepared, and too motivated to allow the freakin' Jacksonville Jaguars to prevent them for fulfilling their mission.

This is how it's gonna be: Brady finds Moss for a pair of early scores, Garrard becomes uncharacteristically careless with the ball when he has to play from behind, and the Pats beat a good team in convincing fashion . . . again. Patriots 34, Jaguars 13.

Bring on Peyton and the Ponies, the only legitimate threat to that zero in the loss column. But you knew that all along, didn't you?

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