Monday, November 07, 2005

Predictive Text

After a particularly delicious Patriot victory over Indy last season, the Ninth wrote the following:

The Ninth would like to know if now, finally, people get what's going on in Indy. Next winter, when inevitably they find themselves in another playoff game at Gillette, are we at last going to accept that they don'’t have a chance? Or is it going to be the same old nonsense about a high-powered offense, an improving defense, and what can Belichick possibly dream up this time? Guys, he always dreams something up, and it'’s always smarter than you expected. And Payton Manning's hands always end up in the air. It'’s physics.

Your obvious follow-up is, "Ninth, does it ever hurt you physically to be so incredibly incisive?" My response: yes, it does. So here we are, it's not the playoffs, but Indy's offense is really good, their defense has stepped things up, and it's not clear how Belichick can scheme his way out. Pundits everywhere insist that this is the end of New England's reign over the Colts, with a few holdouts asking to see it before they believe it. Normally, I'm one of those guys. Last year, I was one of those guys. Based on what I wrote in January, I pretty much have to be one of those guys. So I will be, I'll pick the Patriots, but I won't be surprised if I'm wrong. The problem is not that the Colts have improved, as a 7-0 record against quite possibly the 7 worst teams in football shouldn't light anyone's pants on fire. No, the real difficulty is that New England isn't very good. They almost lost to Buffalo last week, and really, if Tom Brady hadn't taken over, they would have. Belichick has not lost any genius points, and the departure of his assistants haven't hurt badly, but the injuries have. There's just too much missing, and for the first time in Bill's tenure, it is taking an obvious toll on the field. His approach for perplexing Payton is, I'm sure, just as brilliant as ever, but the Ninth worries he lacks the players to enact it. Ted Johnson has told the media that New England's game plan was fairly consistent against Indy; stop the run early, hit the receivers hard, then flood the secondary late. Problem is, I don't know how they do any of those things this evening. Can the Patriots neutralize James without Seymour or Johnson? Do they have the hard-hitting personnel to make Harrison and Co. reluctant to catch? Is their cover game able to stop up every hole? I really don't know. Actually, I do. They don't, but I'm being nice and claiming ignorance. I shouldn't count them out, mostly because I yelled at everyone who did exactly that only ten months ago, but this would be the win of the season if New England can pull it off. The balance of power between the clubs has not changed, but the Patriots aren't prepared to defend their turf. The big question for the season is, will they ever be?