Monday, December 24, 2007

Home-field advantage could hurt Patriots


Late Sunday afternoon, with the sun setting above Gillette Stadium, all was bliss for the New England Patriots.

On a clean field, in good conditions, Tom Brady and Randy Moss continued their attack on the NFL's record books, hooking up twice in the Patriots' easy 28-7 win over hapless Miami.

New England is now 15-0, just one win away from a perfect regular season. It has home-field advantage locked up throughout the AFC playoffs. It has nothing to play for but perfection.

Only a Herculean effort will take down these Patriots. Only a close-to-perfect game. But it's possible, and the way the playoffs are shaping up, a visiting team might benefit from a trip to Foxboro.

(Note: Please wait to call me nonsensical until the end of this column.)

With Willie Parker done for the season, I don't consider Pittsburgh a threat to upend New England. No way, no how. And whoever gets that final wild card spot — the Titans or the Browns — probably won't make it past the first weekend, and even if they do, the Patriots will dispose of them.

So that leaves three teams, three challengers to the Patriots.

Let's start with the team that has the best chance of getting by New England, the Colts. Sure, Peyton Manning's great, but running back Joseph Addai makes that offense click. If the wind is swirling and there is rain or snow in Foxboro, expect Addai to get several carries.

And while New England's Laurence Maroney has been great the past couple weeks, I still give the edge to Addai. With Brady unable to throw accurate deep balls to Moss — unlike the bomb that jump-started New England's comeback win in Indy during the regular season — the Colts could pull the upset on the road.

The same can be said of the Chargers. Yes, Philip Rivers can't hold Brady's Q-tip, but — again — if the conditions are poor and the running game becomes crucial, I like the combination of LaDainian Tomlinson, Michael Turner and Darren Sproles to expose the weaknesses in New England's front seven. A mistake-free game by the Chargers could result in a win.

Finally, not to be forgotten, are the Jaguars, who are playing some of the league's best football right now. Running back Fred Taylor seems rejuvenated by reaching the 10,000-yard mark and subsequently being snubbed — yet again — by the Pro Bowl (how has he never made the "nobody cares" game?). Combines his cutback running with the power-forward motor of Maurice Jones-Drew, and the Jags have the rushing attack to eat up a lot of clock with Brady, Moss & Co. on the sideline.

So call me stupid, call me dumb, but forget all you because it's my birthday: If the New England weather cooperates and turns Gillette Field into a giant snow tub or Hurricane Shula, one of the aforementioned teams will knock off the mighty Patriots, sending Brady weeping back to Giselle, making Bill Belichick lash out at the refs, and causing the rest of the United States to breath a sigh of relief that Boston doesn't win everything.

Sure, it's as far-fetched as Belichick talking during a press conference, but nothing makes much sense these days.

Such as the Patriots winning too much for their own good.


Tyler Hampton said...

That's a pretty good thought, but Brady is too good of a quarterback to let that stop him. He will be able to execute the clutch passes that need to be made. I want to say that I called the Patriots going undefeated and winning the Super Bowl in week 2. I still think that they are going to go all the way. I don't really want them to, but I think that they will be victorious once again.

Sportsattitude said...

It is absolutely legit to consider the Patriots' opponent might be able to "hang around" with them on their home turf. I do agree with you regardless of what we have seen in the regular season, conditions on any given day in NE could very well provide an unwelcome assist to whomever the Pats wind up against.