Five, Two and EvenBill Belichick allows Tom Brady a privilege he denies to every other New England Patriot including himself. The quarterback has the leeway to discuss a Pats' season in more macro terms than the next game on the schedule.
After last Thursday night's game against the Jets, a victory far closer than anyone in the NFL world including most Jets expected, Brady chose to exercise his right to take the long view.
"We lost our first game, and we're 5-2," Brady allowed. "That's not so bad."
Tough to top that for succinct and faultless analysis. Warts and all, the Patriots haven't been nearly as bad overall as they were in their two shoddy defeats. They are one of the six NFL teams with 5-2 records. Complaints are few among followers of the other five, the Colts, Chargers, Ravens, Lions and Packers. All are assumed to be what they are, strong favorites to make the playoffs, except maybe the Lions, whose history has left deep scars on its fan base.
I daresay that if one had tapped a random Pats fan on the shoulder in August and told them their team would be 5-2 after seven games, that fan would almost certainly have said, "I can live with that" or even "sounds about right." Continued success does jade fans, but a .714 winning percentage is not considered the mark of a team in crisis unless it plays in the SEC West instead of the NFL.
My summary of the 2014 Pats to date as viewed from the International Space Station goes as follows. The team remains vulnerable to problems in blocking and stopping the run. Those are serious vulnerabilities. They are far outweighed, however, by the team's success in maintaining three vital strengths, the ability to win at home, the ability to clobber the Buffalo Bills (the key element of its AFC East dominance) and the ability of Brady himself.
As long as the Pats can keep folding those ingredients into their omelet, they will serve up another division title and playoff berth, just as everyone in the world assumed would happen before the season began. In fact, in super macro NFL terms, the local home team is a prime example of what has so far been the defining trait of the 2014 pro football season -- an almost total lack of surprises.
Try as I might, I can only think of one, the Cowboys. Nobody, especially me, thought they'd be any good this season, and after their horrible Opening Day loss to the 49ers. most expected them to be terrible. Funny how a team gets better when it puts the functional equivalent of Jim Brown in at running back.
After that, the NFL has been "Ode to Banal Forecasting," a sonata played in chalk. What most people thought would happen, has. The teams forecast to be good have been, the ones expected to be dreadful have been so and then some. The Bengals were a mirage. Peyton Manning has continued to break records. Some might say the Seahawks' 3-3 record is a shock, but they're wrong. It's never a true surprise when the Super Bowl champ struggles the following season. It happens more often than not.
Season's not half over. Surprise may yet rule the NFL. Today's favorites may become December's disappointments. The Cardinals could keep on winning. Anything is possible, or so the theory goes.
Some things are more possible than others, however. I wouldn't advise Pats fans to be complacent, not with four of the other 5-2 teams plus the Broncos left on the schedule. But I wouldn't advise them to worry overmuch, either. During the regular season anyway, they root for a franchise that ought to be called Conventional Wisdom's Team.