The New England Patriots enter the second half of the season at a perfect 8-0. The meat of the schedule is now ahead of them as they will play two division leaders and an AFC east game over the next three games. Every championship team must face some adversity to gel and become that team. The rash of injuries that have riddled their offensive line and crippled their best running back have started that adversity. Now the Patriots must battle their own personal kryptonite in the New York Giants.
It is no secret to Patriots fans around the world that the Giants have been a giant human hemorrhoid to the Pats since the calendar turned to 2008. The Patriots lost two Super Bowls in agonizing style to the G-men, as well as a rare home loss in 2011. Why is it that the Giants have had the Patriots number? Could it be that Eli Manning morphs into Tom Brady each time they play? Is it the Patriots offensive line falling apart under extreme pressure? Or do the Giants possess a crystal green rock from the planet of krypton?
Regardless this weekends tilt at Met Life Stadium will be the first true test for the Patriots this season. Up until this point the Patriots have been lucky with the way their schedule has bounced. They faced the Steelers without two of their stars. They had an extra few days to prepare for the Bills in Buffalo. Dallas was a shell of itself in Big D. Now the football gods seem to be turning the tables on the Patriots.
Could the Giants hand the Patriots their first loss? With all the talk of an undefeated season from Patriots Nation during Tom Brady’s revenge tour, few have looked at the overall team. Yes the Patriots are undefeated, but are they that good? The teams young defense has gotten after the quarterback and the secondary has played better than expected, but have they been tested? Time will tell if the Patriots are that good, but I am here to tell you the Patriots will lose Sunday in New Jersey.
If you are still reading this, great you actually are an open minded Patriots fan and may actually believe that no matter how pissed off Tom Brady is, the team can still lose. My prediction for this game is the Pats will lose by four, 28-24 but why?
It starts up front, unless Marcus Cannon or Sebastian Vollmer magically play on Sunday, they are both in doubt. The Patriots will again have a patch work offensive line. “So what”? you say they have won without before, “next man up”. they didn’t give up a sack with Cameron Fleming at left tackle and Brian Stork at right. This is true, however looking back at the game, the Patriots were so vanilla on offense in the second half of the game that Foxborough high school’s playbook has more depth. Also, after Vollmer was hurt in that game the Patriots had a lead and were able to run with Blount. All season long it has been the same for the Patriots on offense, spread teams out with the pass and Dion Lewis, gain a lead and then drop the hammer with Blount. This week that will not be the case. The Pats will need to go to a more traditional offense with out Lewis. No disrespect to James White, but he isn’t Dion Lewis, and none of us thought Lewis was going to be that good this year.
The second big issue for the Patriots is on defense. This will be the best offense the Patriots will face to this point of the season. Odell Beckham Jr is a match-up night mare and the Patriots will have a hard time stopping him. If they, as I believe they do devise a game plan to stop Beckham, then the Giants will be forced to beat the Patriots with their other weapons. Normally this wouldn’t be an issue, but the Giants have old friend Shane Vereen on their roster, and without Jamie Collins who has a virus that has been keeping him out of action lately the Patriots do not have a player that can match-up with Vereen. Eli Manning always seems to play his best against the Patriots. Somehow he wins against a team that has a winning record against virtually everyone but the Giants over the last seven season.
Each year fans and media alike grab the NFL schedule and play the win/loss game. The Pats will win this game, and that game, but lose this game. I circled this game as a loss when the schedule was released, and hence my score prediction of 28-24. Now here is what will happen in the game and how I will be wrong.
The Patriots will win the coin toss and defer to the second half. Eli Manning and the Giants will take the ball and pass it all over the Patriots and go up 7-0 on a pass to Rueben Randle, who will beat the coverage of the Patriots Malcolm Butler. Butler will be covering Randle as the Patriots will bracket cover Beckham with a Logan Ryan and a safety. The Patriots will then get the ball and move it modestly down the field before Brady throws an uncharacteristic interception, in Giant territory, note the Giants are very good at forcing turnovers. When the Giants get the ball back, the Patriots will hold them to a field goal. Making it 10-0 and the hearts of the New England faithful will be saying not again. However this time Brady who is already pissed off will scream “lets gooooooooooo” and the offense will get on a roll. The Giants will be helpless to stop Rob Gronkowski, as he says “Tom say catch ball, I go be Gronk” and rips off a nice 35 yard catch and run for a touch down, where Gronk looks like a bowling ball destroying pins.
When the Giants get the ball back, Belichick and Patricia will have a new wrinkle in their defense. Dominique Easley will start moving all over the defensive line allowing Rob Ninkovich to play a rover and chip Vereen out of the back field. This will lead to a punt, that Julian Edelman will take back to the Giant side of the field. James White will take a screen pass (please Josh don’t forget about this) and make New England forget they lost Dion Lewis and scamper into the red zone. Here Brady will find Bradon LaFell open at the five on a slant for the touchdown with just over two minutes to go in the half. ELi will then get the ball and try to march up the field. This time he is not so lucky to have a helmet stickem catch, instead he forces a throw into the tight coverage of Butler, who actually holds onto an INT this year. (and butler can drop every would be pick from now until eternity and he still caught the one that mattered) The Patriots then get a long field goal by Steven Gostkowski to make it 17-10 at the half. The second half will focus mainly on Blount punishing the Giants bottom ranked defense. Little talked about fact, but look back at the losses to the Giants, the Patriots have always gotten away from the run. Not this time, as Belichick will have the “B” button removed from Josh McDaniels Tecmo Super Bowl Play call sheet in the second half and he will have to pick all runs. In this scenario the Patriots continue their run of perfection, and a chance at history.
You can listen to my Podcast Patriots Beat for an audio breakdown of the game.