You know, a .500 record in September isn’t that bad, people.
When we predicted a slow 2-2 start by the Patriots in our preseason column, we were met with, shall we say, resistance (link here).
New England has had some misfortune. The Aaron Hernandez injury forced them into a different offensive mindset, and other players struggled to take up the slack. The defense displayed lapses similar to 2011 (for whatever reason, it seems rare that defenders look back at the ball). Special teams failed to live up to their adjective.
The good news? This young New England team should only improve as we head into the second quarter of the season. Judging by their 45-0 second half at Buffalo, the Pats have tapped into the potential to do some damage.
So, relax, think positive thoughts, and check out our first quarter review/second quarter preview.
Game One Prediction: NE 23, TEN 20
Actual Result: NE 34, TEN 13
We figure the visitors will get off to a slow start, but New England shines in all phases of the game. Most Telling Stat: Titan Chris Johnson gains 4 yards on 11 carries while Patriot Stevan Ridley garners 125 on 21 totes.
Game Two Prediction: NE 31, ARI 13
Actual Result: ARI 20, NE 18
Underrated Arizona stuns New England – both the team and the region – as the home opener includes a blocked punt, a holding call on what would have been the leading TD, and a missed potential game-winning field goal.
Game Three Prediction: BAL 27, NE 23
Actual Result: BAL 31, NE 30
Playing with a little something extra after the death of his brother, Torrey (aka Torrid) Smith burns the Patriots secondary as, in a well-worn scenario, the offense can’t run out the clock while the defense can’t keep an opponent at bay late. New England surrenders a 30-21 lead in the final five minutes.
Game Four Prediction: BUF 21, NE 20
Actual Result: NE 52, BUF 28
Things look grim going into this one with the absences of receiver Julian Edelman and guard Logan Mankins. New England’s D delivers a goal-line stand to keep it close at the half; their offense come through with a remarkable outburst to erase a 21-7 deficit. Four Patriots compiled over 100 yards of offense each (Ridley and Brandon Bolden rushing, Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski receiving).
As Coach Belichick might say, we’re looking ahead to next week. Or the next four weeks, actually. The good news? The Pats should have a winning record by the bye. The bad news? Peyton Manning’s coming to town, and he’s bringing his friends.
2012 SECOND QUARTER PREDICTIONS
Vs. DENVER (Sun, Oct. 7, 4:25 p.m.) – DEN 27, NE 24.
Manning has looked like his old self of late, and few quarterbacks know the Patriots better than he does (Broncos center Dan Koppen knows them even better). New England needs enough skill players to allow Tom Brady to avoid cornerback Champ Bailey; with their current slate of injuries, they may have a hard time keeping up.
As an aside, I’d pay to watch video of Patriots backup QB Ryan Mallett doing his impression of Manning on the practice field. It must look like a stork imitating an ostrich.
At SEATTLE (Sun, Oct. 14, 4:05 p.m.) – NE 20, SEA 16
This could get ugly. Seattle QB Russell Wilson strikes fear in the hearts of few, but the 2012 version of the Seahawks has proven a tough out at home. Pass-rusher Chris Clemons, helped by a level of crowd noise Gillette Stadium hasn’t seen since forever, could do some damage against Pats tackle Nate Solder.
Plus, Coach Pete Carroll seems to know what he’s doing. Go figure.
Vs. NEW YORK (Sun, Oct. 21, 4:25 p.m.) – NE 30, NYJ 20
The Patriots should be able to control the game offensively considering the Jets’ difficulty defending the run and their acute Revis deficiency. We predict a relatively close one because this rates as the Jets’ annual Super Bowl. Unfortunately for them, their offense has been lighting it up about as often as a non-smoker in a gunpowder shack.
(I assume gunpowder shacks exist. I watched a lot of Bugs Bunny cartoons.)
At ST. LOUIS (Sun, Oct. 28, 1 p.m.) – NE 28, STL 20
The Rams have competed this season, yet remain mediocre in almost every statistical category. QB Sam Bradford will have to beat the Pats, as the visitors will focus on stopping St. Louis’ running game. Notable stat: in last week’s 19-13 victory over Seattle, the Rams’ kicking team scored all points (including a nifty fake kick/TD pass that looked an awful lot like the Adam-Vinatieri-to-Troy-Brown hookup of November 2004).
We expect the Patriots’ defense to mesh better and the offense to find its rhythm by the end of October, setting the team up for success in the second half (and, we assume, beyond the regular season).
Predicted record for Games Five through Eight: 3-1
Predicted record at midseason: 5-3
Predicted season record: 11-5
You can email Chris Warner happy tidings at firstname.lastname@example.org