October 23, 2006


Patriots show signs of returning to Super Bowl form (Ira Miller, Oct. 22, 2006, San Jose Mercury News)

It's not too early to say the New England Patriots are a factor again.

That's not based just on their 28-6 victory over Buffalo that left the Patriots with a 5-1 record, which is better than they started in two of their three recent Super Bowl-winning years. It's based on the team's body of work all season.

While so much ink has been spilled over the loss of place-kicker Adam Vinatieri, over the depletion of the receiving corps and over Tom Brady's body language during a loss to Denver a month ago, the Patriots quietly have been repairing a defense that fell off during the 2005 season, and getting better on offense.

You don't hear anyone arguing with the Patriots brain trust anymore and its obviously accurate assessment that football players are entirely fungible commodities.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 23, 2006 10:18 AM

I agree that the losses of Vinatieri (out almost the whole season so far), Givens (doing nothing in TN), McGinest (doing nothing in Cleveland), and Branch (some spark in Seattle but now without Hasselback) were overstated.

That said, come back in 3 weeks after the Pats have faced Minnesota, Indy, and the (better than expected) Jets.

Posted by: AWW at October 23, 2006 10:48 AM

That would be the Vikings who had no trouble replacing their starting QB, the Colts who had no trouble replacing their RB, and the Jets who easily replaced Abraham and Martin? Good point.

Posted by: oj at October 23, 2006 11:01 AM

I believe coaching means more in pro football than baseball or basketball but stating that players are "entirely fungible" goes a bit far. Look to New Orleans and Drew Brees for exhibit 1. Steve Smith at Carolina is another example. When he plays, they win. I don't think Coach Holmgren in Seattle believes that Shaun Alexander is a fungible asset either.

Posted by: Patrick H at October 23, 2006 11:38 AM

Take Seymour and Brady off that team and see how they do.

Posted by: kevin whited at October 23, 2006 11:39 AM

seymopur's hurt and Brady was just a replacement for Bledsoe.

Posted by: oj at October 23, 2006 11:44 AM

The Saints new coach matters. Brees doesn't.

Posted by: oj at October 23, 2006 11:45 AM

Coming sign of the apocolypse?

Bears v Patriots???

Posted by: Sandy P at October 23, 2006 12:02 PM

O.J., if your contention were true, N.E. could consistently win the Superbowl while paying every player the league minimum.

The real game in the salary-cap era is to avoid major incremental overpayment for minor incremental improvement, esp at the marquee positions. N.E. does well cuz it doesn't overpay, and what it loses when a Branch leaves it gets back in equal skill value elsewhere.

Posted by: ras at October 23, 2006 12:52 PM

If the Jets had truly replaced Curtis Martin, they would be a Super Bowl team.

Brady is much better than Drew Bledsoe - he sees more, throws sharper, and even moves around better.

But the article is right - the Pats are on their roll, and if they jell on offense, they will win the AFC. The Bears are too fragile and probably wouldn't beat either the Giants, the Eagles, or the Panthers in the NFC.

Posted by: jim hamlen at October 23, 2006 3:04 PM

I don't know about fungible, but the Pats are clearly the NFL's Moneyball masters. It also helps that the coach is tactically brilliant, and more importantly that the players believe that the coach is brilliant.

The interesting thing is that Belichek has been more willing than people recognize to adapt his system to his personel, and is only now getting close to the team that really suits his coaching inclination. The (single-A college?) TE and high-school offensive lineman finally has depth at both positions, good RBs and a clever QB. I wouldn't be surprised to see them putting up scary offensive numbers (especially in stats like time of posession and limited turnovers) for the next few years.

Posted by: Mike Earl at October 23, 2006 3:50 PM