The League

Richard Boadu & Claude Clayborne
6Magazine co-editors

Richard Boadu & Claude Clayborne

Publisher/Co-Editors of 6Magazine - a football and hip-hop culture digital magazine

The Patriots empire strikes back

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By Aaron Stern

It's a weird year in the NFL. At least three teams are facing the rare and bitter prospect of finishing 10-6 and missing the playoffs.

The Patriots know that pain better than anyone else. After Tom Brady blew out his knee in Week 1 of the 2008 season, the team rallied behind Matt Cassell to finish 11-5, but still missed the postseason.

That's ancient history now, and while the plight of such teams has revived the debate about whether or not subpar teams who win lackluster conferences (in '08 the Chargers made the playoffs by winning the AFC West with an 8-8 record; this year's NFC West champion will have no fewer than seven losses) should make the playoffs over teams with superior records, it's no longer New England's torch to carry.

After two mediocre seasons - by New England standards, that is - the Patriots are back. In their past two games they have gone from dark horse contenders to full-fledged Super Bowl favorites. A week after undressing the Jets on national television, the Patriots rolled into Chicago last weekend and methodically dismantled a Bears team that considered itself among the best in the NFC.

It's the same old story: Brady is surgical and Bill Belichick is diabolical. They're winning - actually, they're dominating - with precision passing and superior coaching. That fans outside of New England can't name another Patriot besides Wes Welker makes no difference. Woodhead, Gronkowski, Mayo and Wilfork aren't exactly household names. But Belichick puts his players in just the right position in a painstakingly crafted game plan each week, maximizing their abilities while simultaneously exploiting the weaknesses of his opponents.

And of course, there's Brady. Mock him for his hair, hate him for his glamorous lifestyle, but don't doubt him. He is as deadly right now as he has ever been, and opposing defenses can only pick their poison when he and his no-name teammates are playing like this.

Like it or not - and barring injuries - the Patriots look like a team headed for a run into late January. In a strange 2010 NFL season, their return to dominance is a little slice of normalcy.

By Richard Boadu & Claude Clayborne  |  December 15, 2010; 1:26 PM ET  | Category:  AFC , NFL , New England Patriots , Tom Brady Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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