Monday, September 15, 2008

So begins LAB

Life After least for this season.

Mike Greenburg said something this morning that's probably spot on - if Brady started against the Jets the Pats would very likely have put an absolute beat down on Gang Green. That said, I was very happy with Matt Cassel's performance in yesterday's game. He was solid - hell, he was even Brady-esque to an extent.

For those that don't know, or don't get it, Cassel's numbers yesterday were almost identical to Brady's first NFL start. Brady's line against the Colts in his first NFL start - 13-23-168 with no touchdowns or interceptions and two rushing yards. Cassel - 16-23-165 with no touchdowns or interceptions and seven rushing yards.

The Pats won both games.

Cassel has at least two more games to get his feet wet against competition like the Dolphins and 49ers before facing San Diego. Although, if San Diego doesn't get their act together, the first tough defense that Cassel will face is Indy's in the eighth game of the season. And, quite frankly, if Indy's offense doesn't get it together, their defense might be a little worn out by game eight.

San Diego, by the way, has given up an average of 32.5 points per game through the first two games. Miami, the Pats next opponent, has had a better defense than the Chargers, giving up 25.5 per game, then San Fran at 26.5.

Sure, the Pats play Denver who has been prolific, scoring 80 points in two games, but that's been against the aforementioned Chargers and a Raiders team that's expected to be pretty bad.

The hardest games for Cassel going forward are likely to be Denver (if the team gets into a shoot out, it could be problematic), the Colts, Bills (twice), Steelers, and Cardinals. Ten and six is certainly possible, and I don't think 12-4 is unrealistic. The Pats could, realistically, enter the playoffs as the number one seed (although they could just as easily be the number four).

A few other thoughts -

Both Denver and the Colts benefited from some blown calls right down by the goal line. There will be a lot of ranting about that from San Diego fans and from Vikings fans.

If the refs get the call right on the goal line on that third down play, it's likely that the Colts settle for a field goal given Manning's knee and the time left to play in the game. That's at least a seven point swing, as the Colts don't line-up for the field goal in the final seconds.

San Diego, of course, also then has the ball and closes the game out with 30 seconds to go.

The flip side of both of these - better coaching, better execution and neither the Vikings nor the Chargers are in a position to get screwed by a bad call. The San Diego defense has been brutally bad through the first two weeks, as has the Vikings offense.

Bad calls happen every week in the NFL, sometimes those calls threaten to change the course of a game. Good teams either take advantage of those things (the Colts), or overcome them.

As I used to tell the kids when I still coached, the refs don't see everything, and if we're the subject of bad calls, then so is the other team - get over it and go out and play the game.

Later this week, I'm going to talk about some of the potential season changing things that have happened in the first two games of the season.

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