Sunday, September 05, 2010

Inertia is a KIND of Momentum

As the fearsome devastation wrought by Hurricane Earl shows us, forecasting is one of the best ways ever invented for human beings to make fools of themselves. No wonder people like reading/watching/hearing them! The forecaster gives us at least one poor goop to whom we can feel superior.

Therefore, as my treat to you, and because after all I did write about other people's forecasts in my last post without making one, which is more than slightly chickens&#*, what follows is my guess as to the 2010 New England Patriots.

Short version: Much of the personnel is different, especially on defense, but I don't expect the results to be much different, except possibly (and for the Pats a little more happily) in January

Long version Chapter One. The Floor: The Patriots have won at least 10 games in each regular season since 2002. That's seven seasons, which is a long time. The Iraq War hadn't even started yet.

When something has happened seven times in a row, the percentage bet is it will happen an eighth time. Doesn't always work, but it seems to me that the burden of proof falls upon anyone who'd forecast that the Pats will be 9-7 or worse this season. What's the evidence for thinking the team has deteriorated from 2009, and no, their playoff thrashing at the hands of the Ravens doesn't count. (BTW: Why is it in NFL forecast land that people see the Pats' opening round loss as proof of their inevitable decline, while the Packers who gave up 51(!) points in THEIR opening round playoff loss, are the trendy NFC title pick?).

I don't see the case. The Pats are pretty much the same as they were, with a superior offense (Hall of Fame QBs do that for you), and a defense with questions. At least this year, the Pats created most of those questions with a determined effort to bring in some younger players, a necessary adjustment to the march of time. As long as they can beat the Bills twice, and given the soon-to-be-highly-entertaining implosion of the New York Jets that is the one prediction I'd actually bet on, I see no reason why New England won't be at least 10-6 yet again, and AFC East winner to boot.

Chapter Two. The Ceiling: Much of the preceding paragraph could have gone in this chapter, because I don't see many reasons why the Pats will do much better than 10-6 and AFC East champions without a first-round bye, either. Change on defense may be necessary, but when young defensive backs, like young quarterbacks, make mistakes, they tend to be the sort of errors that lose games. And the Pats' offense remains firmly welded to Tom Brady's right shoulder joint. New England will score points and control space. It's still not suited to controlling time, meaning the defense-in-progress is going to continue to have a goodly number opportunities to screw up -- some of which it will take.

Somewhere, likely on the road in the playoff divisional round, the Pats' season will come to an unhappy end, and once again we'll hear that New England's days as an NFL power have ended.

Depends on how you define power. Should my forecast come true, that'd be eight straight 10-win or more seasons and seven playoff trips in eight years. That's a pretty odd definition of an also-ran.


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