The League

Emil Steiner
Editor and Blogger

Emil Steiner

The author of NFL Crime Watch and Founding Editor of The League.

Curse of Gisele?

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Worry abounds week two, but why? Well, according to trends, if you tank in September you'll be playing golf in January. Exaggeration? Hardly.

Numbers-wise over the last decade, "82 of the NFL's 120 playoff teams had a winning record in the first month, and 35 were unbeaten. Only 19 of the 120 teams to make the playoffs had a losing record."

So, who should be worried? The limping Lions, pathetic Panthers or the jaded Jaguars -- sure, but how about Boston's second team -- the New England Patriots?

Now, I know they got a "wicked pissah" head coach devious enough for Stephen King and brainy enough for Harvard Yard, (with all due respect to Wesleyan), but that's where the brilliance stops.

Tom Brady, arguably the greatest quarterback of this century, has stumbled back to earth under the weight of his own star power, his early success and a fear of buckling his knee. What once came naturally now appears forced, as if the year off gave him time to contemplate the mechanics of his greatness, or worse still -- life after football.

Yes, I watched Week 1 when he came back against the Bills. Super! How about beating a team for more than the final three minutes? Brady seems to have gone Nadal on us, and while it may be temporary, it could be permanent.

But Mr. Bundchen isn't the only reason for the Patriots' recent impotence. With Wes Welker injured, the receiving burden, Sunday, fell on Joey Galloway, Randy Moss and Ben Watson. They, quite frankly, dropped the ball.

Rookie Julian Edleman tried to atone for their incompetence racking up 98 yards on eight receptions, but that was mostly the product of under-coverage. On the ground, the Faulk-Maroney-Taylor-Morris running back ensemble seemed about as fluid as a cranberry bog in February. Bottom line, the offense stunk.

Further, the defense, which once sucked the marrow out of opposing schemes, appears decimated by retirements and injuries. On the sidelines New England's coaching staff looks picked apart by ravenous general managers hoping to clone Belichick's Jedi mind tricks with watered down iterations. What's left is a competent Patriots team, one capable of the playoffs, but not a dominant squad whose reputation alone rattles opponents.

Are the Pats done? No. But those proud fans expecting dynastic perpetuation may want to hit the panic button or, failing that, stay focused on the Red Sox.

Special thanks to Elijah Dornstreich for his help on this article.

By Emil Steiner  |  September 21, 2009; 10:42 AM ET  | Category:  Emil Steiner , Jacksonville Jaguars , New England Patriots Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Which Teams Should Be Panicking? | Next: Torture on the Cuyahoga

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As a Pats fan, I'm the first to admit they have problems. The running game has been weak for years, with Maroney in particular either injured, or good for 1.5 yards a carry. I don't know why they even bother with him. Kevin Faulk has been a workhorse for them for what feels like 30 years (in a good way) -- and there he was against the Bills picking up critical first downs. But they need a No. 1 RB, and badly.

Brady is rusty, but has already shown flashes of his former self. The real problem there is that his O-line is basically a bunch of strangers, and will take a while to round into shape. Remember, the Pats have won Super Bowls with nothing more than Brady and a bunch of free agents, so Belichick is not going to panic. Still, they have clearly taken a step backwards and their remaining stars are not getting any younger.

All in all, I could see them either limping into the playoffs, or missing them entirely. The Jets finally managed to expose them, but at least the Pats can be happy with one fact: come hell or high water, they at least won't go through life as the miserable Jets.

Posted by: zippyspeed | September 21, 2009 2:40 PM

Is it possible that the decline of the Patriots coincides with the revelation that Belichick had been cheating for years by videotaping opposing defenses? How else does one win consistently with a largely star-free roster?

I imagine the same question must be circulating in South Bend. Charlie Weis built his "genius" reputation through access to those illegal videos. Now he's on his own and the results speak for themselves.

Oh well. At least Boston will always have the memory of its steroid-soaked Red Sox "champions".

Posted by: stanwood1 | September 21, 2009 3:26 PM

Talk to me in December, haters. Sure, you all WANT the Patriots to fail, because they stand for everything our once-great nation used to believe in -- teamwork over individuality, performance over personality, success through perseverance and hard work, and leadership by example. I've been a lifelong Patriots fan and spent many years paying my dues, and personally I couldn't be more proud of this team. The New England Patriots represent everything a sports team should be.

Stanwood1, I can only feel pity for you -- you seem to be in danger of choking on your own bile. I mean, I know the Skins are pathetic, but hating the Patriots is not a solution to your problems. Maybe you need to find a girlfriend or something, or at least learn to lose like a man...

Posted by: jerkhoff | September 21, 2009 6:04 PM

I still don't get how Frau Bundchen comes into this. For one thing, there are at least three or four successful NFL players who have happy families (nudge, nudge.) For another, there are big issues with several units of the Pats (I'm personally most concerned with the loss of leadership in the D, but O-line has been iffy in the past.) Some of us remember when every Pats game was a nail-biter, and every win a thrill. No panic. Sooner or later Pats will be BAAACK...

Posted by: elizh1 | September 21, 2009 7:23 PM

Good point, Elizh. I think the problem is that some people (i.e losers) keep trying to reduce Tom Brady to their level. The conventional wisdom is that, after a year away from the field, Tom Brady has somehow been sapped of his desire to play football. And this ties into the old mythology about women sapping athletes' strength, along with the more recent example of the evil succubus Jessica Simpson draining the life blood out of Tony Romo (I sure am glad he gave her the boot instead of a ring!) In this case, however, the myth is pure garbage. The Pats have their share of problems, but none of them are named Tom Brady. Now, if you mentioned Joey Galloway, you might have a point. Can't wait to see Wes Welker back on the field, and Joey on the bench where he belongs...

Posted by: jerkhoff | September 21, 2009 7:36 PM

The dynasty is over. Don't blame Giselle. The defense is too old and unskilled to compete with even a marginally adequate offense, i.e., the Jets. And I should know, I'm a Jets fan.

Posted by: seve2yoo | September 21, 2009 9:14 PM

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