The Other McCain

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Can the Patriots Exceed Expectations?

Posted on | September 8, 2022 | Comments Off on Can the Patriots Exceed Expectations?

Patriots linebacker Anfernee Jennings

After a generally depressing off-season, the New England Patriots will kick off Sunday at Miami, and few sports analysts forecast either a Pats victory over the Dolphins or a winning season, for that matter.

Every year, sports writers do a pre-season “power ranking” of all 32 NFL teams and, via CBS Boston, here’s how they rate the Patriots:

Now, 14 teams make the playoffs, so you see that seven of these eight rankings project the Patriots to miss the playoffs this year. And who am I to argue with the experts? However, I am hopeful that despite all the hand-wringing from the Boston sports press over Bill Belichick’s odd choices in assistants to direct the New England offense this year, somehow those wrinkles will get ironed out. Furthermore, there are indications that the Patriots’ defense will be better overall this year. It was the breakdown of the defense at year’s end that doomed New England to be “one and done” in the wild-card playoff game, and if the defense is notably improved this year, that could help compensate for whatever struggles the Patriots endure on offense. Also, for those who credit Belichick as a cunning chess master, there is the suggestion that he’s been hiding his real offensive scheme during the pre-season.

Every time people start trying to prognosticate outcomes in football, my answer is, “We’ll see.” Whatever happens on the football field speaks for itself, and we can’t rule out the possibility that the Patriots will run roughshod over the Dolphins, racking up five or six touchdowns in a one-sided blowout. This could happen, although it’s not likely, but if New England somehow manages to squeak out a win Sunday, no matter how close the final score, it will certainly move them up in the power rankings, considering that many of the experts figure Miami to finish ahead of the Patriots in the AFC East division this season. And then, of course, there are the Buffalo Bills, who open the season tonight against the defending Super Bowl champions, the L.A. Rams. Even though it’s a home game for Los Angeles, the Bills are actually favored by the oddsmakers, which tells you how highly Josh Allen and his Buffalo teammates are esteemed by those who watch the NFL most closely, i.e., the gamblers.

Mac Jones and the Patriots are underdogs this season, and maybe that will give them some extra inspiration. Remember, nobody in pre-season last year predicted the Bengals would make it to the Super Bowl, where they just barely lost to the Rams. Let’s hope the Pats can beat the odds like that this year. Hope is about all they’ve got.



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