New England 2-2? First Quarter 2012 Predictions

Soo, ready for the season yet, or do you want another preseason game?

Nope? All set? Good.

Speaking of which, before we get into our predictions of the first four contests of the season, a quick review of our Preseason Predictions column posted at the beginning of August.

Preseason Predictions (Proper): Pretty short list. Two preseason wins or less (at 1-3, the Pats fell in line). Also, we guessed that, while Stevan Ridley would produce the most, Brandon Bolden could secure a roster spot with solid play. Donald Thomas would start at guard, while Ryan Mallett “(would) get plenty of opportunities to play.”

Preseason Predictions (Poor): We had Bolden scoring the most TDs (zero won’t do it), Aaron Hernandez getting the most receptions, and Jabar Gaffney with the most reception yardage (even without his injury, that probably wasn’t going to happen).

Ah, well. Why let a few mistakes get in the way? Let’s be pundits!

At TENNESSEE (Sun, 9/9, 1 p.m.) NE 23, TEN 20.

Titans quarterback Jack Locker comes into this game with three advantages: home crowd, strong scrambling skills, and opponent ignorance. On that last point, New England has so little film on Locker they may as well be scouting Nessie. With a strong running game, we can see Locker doing just enough – even without Kenny “Officer, I Haven’t Had Anydrink To Thing Tonight” Britt at receiver – to give the Pats’ defense a challenge.

Meanwhile, the visiting offense takes a while to round into form, as the starting line this off-season have seen each other about as often as Giselle and the inside of a Wal-Mart. We predict a win, but a close one.

Vs. ARIZONA (Sun, 9/16, 1 p.m.) – NE 31, ARI 13.

Your starting quarterback for Arizona: John “Who, me?” Skelton, who beat out Kevin “Ka-ching!” Kolb and Ryan Lindley. Seriously, this three-headed QB is kind of like Cerberus, if Cerberus were a mini Chihuahua.

Offensively, the home opener should see the Patriots pull an Earth, Wind, and Fire and really get into a groove.

At BALTIMORE (Sun, 9/23, 8:20 p.m.) – BAL 27, NE 23

If you’re from Baltimore – sorry: If youse’re from Balmer, you want this game. The Ravens came within one dropped pass of victory and one missed field goal of overtime in last year’s AFC Champsionship at Foxboro. Linebacker Ray Lewis would actually rip off someone’s head and shout at it to ensure a win – and that would be his own teammate. With New England starting more slowly than Don Criqui matching a uniform number with a player while Baltimore gets inspired by the past more than Ron Borges’ barber, it should become a tough slog down in Charm City for the Pats.

But man, wouldn’t it be great if the Pats won on a questionable call by a replacement official? Even watching from his couch, Terrell Suggs would get so upset he’d pass out after forgetting to breathe out of his mouth.

At BUFFALO (Sun, 9/30, 1 p.m.) – BUF 21, NE 20

After a 2-0 start, the Patriots move back to .500 with a lame effort against Buffalo. Too many weapons on defense and a good-enough game from Ryan “Oh, I Went To School Near Boston – In Cambridge, As A Matter Of Fact” Fitzpatrick keep the visiting offense on their toes and the defense on their heels. Mario “I’m Not Injured Yet” Williams will make a difference, throwing Tom Brady off-rhythm and allowing the Bills to drop about 40 players into coverage.

The home fans feel very happy, until they leave the stadium and realize they live in Buffalo.

Predicted record after four games: 2-2

Predicted season record: 11-5

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A Far-Too-Early Patriots Roster Preview Review

Way, waay back this spring, right after rookie mini-camp, we tried a Pats roster preview. Now, for your reading pleasure, we have taken the time to review our predictions.

(Keep in mind, people: this was on May 14. That’s a long time ago, like before “the Red Sox” served as a punchline for “What has 18 legs, no head, and refuses to live up to expectations?”)

Below lies a look back and how it compares to the primary cutdown. Names of those who made the initial roster on Friday are in bold, with updates from weekend transactions.

QUARTERBACK: Tom Brady, Ryan Mallett, Brian Hoyer.

Missed Picks: Hoyer cut.

Ship A Hoyer: You like that? How about this one: “I guess the Patriots front office acted with Mallett A Forethought.” BOOM.

Seriously, though, a big surprise, albeit a pleasant one regarding Mallett’s surge.

RUNNING BACK: Danny Woodhead, Shane Vereen, Stevan Ridley, Brandon Bolden.

Missed Picks: None, now that Jeff Demps has been safely tucked away on injured reserve.

Bolden The Beautiful: We actually made the right call on Joseph Addai, whose veteran presence didn’t seem to make up for the affects of age. (I’m in my 40s, so that hurts.) Happy with the addition of Bolden, who could contribute in many ways. Looking at Bolden and BenJarvus Green-Ellis, from now on shouldn’t every Ole Miss running back get drafted?

FULLBACK: Spencer Larsen, Eric Kettani.

Missed Picks: Larsen, Kettani both cut.

No Thanks, We’re Full: While it seems that our desire to bring back the fullback has been dashed, it’s possible that Bolden could take some reps at the position (as well as a tight end, an offensive lineman, or groundskeeper. Anyone who’s around, really). Larsen’s injury hurt (literally, we assume), giving him little chance to show what he could do. We left Tony Fiametta off the team, though we couldn’t have predicted his Agatha-Christie-level mystery departure from Foxboro.

Update: New England signed Kettani to the practice squad.

TIGHT END: Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski

Missed Picks: Daniel Fells, Visanthe Shiancoe kept.

Say Please And Shiancoe: We picked Larsen over Fells (Shiancoe had not yet been signed). Surprised at keeping four TEs and the apparent impact on our next position…

WIDE RECEIVER: Brandon Lloyd, Julian Edelman, Matthew Slater, Deion Branch, Jabar Gaffney, Jeremy Ebert.

Missed Picks: Wes Welker kept; Branch, Gaffney, Ebert cut.

Getting More Out Of Wes: I had Welker sitting out for the first few weeks trying to hammer out a contract (remember that?). Sometimes it’s good to be wrong. Gaffney’s injury kept him off the field, but even before then he seemed to falter. Branch’s cut came as a big surprise to me, especially after his preseason production.

We knew a bunch of vets had to go, like Anthony Gonzalez, Donte Stallworth and Chad Lastname. But Gaffney and Branch? Looks like Brady’s going to make more short passes than Casanova at a little person convention.

Update: The Patriots traded for Rams receiver Greg Salas over the weekend. On the positive side, they add depth with someone familiar with Josh McDaniels’ offense. On the negative side, Salas is a Welker type. Or an Edelman type. Whatever he’s adding, it’s nothing new.

OFFENSIVE LINE: Dan Connolly, Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer, Marcus Cannon, Nick McDonald, Dan Koppen, Matt Kopa, Kyle Hix.

Missed Picks: Donald Thomas, Ryan Wendell, Logan Mankins kept; Koppen, Kopa, Hix all cut.

Working On Our Koppen Skills: Congrats, Thomas and Wendell! We underestimated you, and apparently overestimated the veteran leadership of Koppen. We had a good feeling about McDonald due to his versatility. Also thought Mankins would start season on PUP list due to knee injury. Mankins so tough that off-season surgery consisted of sewing up knee with fishing line while shooting at skeet to keep mind off pain.

Update: New England signed former Boston College offensive lineman Matt Tenant over the weekend. Apparently, the Pats must always have at least one OL from BC. Also, Kopa made the practice squad.

DEFENSIVE LINE: Brandon Deaderick, Vince Wilfork, Kyle Love, Chandler Jones, Trevor Scott, Marcus Forston, Myron Pryor, Jonathan Fanene, Gerard Warren.

Missed Picks: Jermaine Cunningham, Ron Brace, Justin Francis kept; Fanene, Warren cut; Pryor (PUP list).

Keeping Jermaine: Very happy being wrong regarding the progress of Cunningham and Brace; we gave up on the 2010 picks, but they didn’t give up on themselves (that’s the potential tagline for the upcoming ESPN doc and/or Lifetime movie). Francis’ consistency helped him stick. Had a good feeling about Forston. Sorry to see Warren go, but understandable. The word “Fanene” roughly translates into “oops.”

LINEBACKER: Jerod Mayo, Rob Ninkovich, Brandon Spikes, Dont’a Hightower, Jake Bequette, Tracy White, Jeff Tarpinian, Dane Fletcher.

Missed Picks: Bobby Carpenter*, Mike Rivera kept; Tarpinian cut; Fletcher to IR.

Take Me To The Rivera: Rivera may be one of the few Patriots to benefit from late preseason production, as he was all over the field against the Giants (Fletcher’s injury opened a door for him as well). Tarpinian failed to step up, apparently, while Carpenter had a firm grasp of this defense from day one.

Did you know that sperm whales were called carpenter whales because they make a noise that sounds like hammering? It’s true. While humpback songs sound New Age, sperm whale chatter sounds like a house renovation. (Sorry. Just went to a whaling museum.  I’m full of more Blubber-based trivia than a Judy Blume fan club.)

*Update: New England cut Carpenter over the weekend, making the above paragraph an even greater non sequitur. Also, Tarpinian made the practice squad.

CORNERBACK: Kyle Arrington, Devin McCourty, Ras-I Dowling, Alfonso Dennard.

Missed Picks: Marquice Cole, Sterling Moore kept.

Stocking With Cole: Surprised at six corners sticking around, but Cole’s preseason performance got him a longer look. Moore, while inconsistent, continued to flash at the position.

SAFETY: Patrick Chung, Steve Gregory, Tavon Wilson, Josh Barrett.

Missed Picks: Nate Ebner kept; Barrett cut.

In-Nate Ability: How ’bout this Ebner kid? Watching highlights of him playing for Ohio State’s 7 rugby team, we dared hope for a long-term transition to safety. Very impressive work from a college special teams guy in his rookie preseason.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Stephen Gostkowski, kicker; Zoltan Mesko, punter; Danny Aiken, longsnapper.

Missed Picks: None. I mean, come on.

Aiken To Belong: Aiken has shown some inconsistency (read: don’t be too surprised at a change in the position).

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