Thursday, November 3, 2011

Look ahead to Patriots

We will be able to tell a lot about the 2011 Giants from the next several games when the competition gets stiffer. While I root hard for the team, I am somewhat objective about their prospects, and I honestly can't tell how good this team is. On the one hand they are 5-2, but you always have to consider the level of competition, because, obviously that is the greatest determinant in a team's record. Three of the five wins came against the dregs of the NFL and were not convincing, dominant performances. A fourth win came against an Eagles team that did not yet have its act together. Add the two losses against the Redskins and Seahawks and you have a really soft set of results. Only the win against the Bills can be considered to have come against a good team that was playing well at the time the Giants played them. There is no use rationalizing, defending the team or using the old "you can only play the teams on your schedule" argument. The next several games will reveal what the Giants have. I do believe the Giants have the ingredients to be a good team, but some things definitely have to improve and come together for that to happen. The DBs have to play better, the LBs have to be more consistent and not get caught out of position.  On offense, the OL has to play better especially in the running game. It's not an impossible feat and the Giants certainly have some components on the team that are superior. We'll see.

It's interesting how Bellichick and the Patriots have remade themselves. Bellichick has a well earned reputation as being a brilliant and creative defensive coach. He was the mastermind under Parcells of the great Giants defense of the 1986 and 1990 Super Bowl titles. The Patriots titles were also largely predicated on defense with opportunistic and efficient, but certainly not overwhelming contributions form their offense. Bellichick did not just coach the players, he created defensive game plans and strategies that changed the game. It's a matter for another post and a longer analysis, but Lawrence Taylor coming off the edge in a 3-4 defense changed the way offense was played in the NFL. (Just ask Michael Oher.) Then during the Patriots Super Bowl runs, he created the defensive game plan to maul the smallish Colts WRs, particularly Marvin Harrison, up and down the field and play them very physically. This was a primary factor in the rule change to allow contact with the WRs only within the first 5 yards of the line of scrimmage.

Then something changed with Bellichick. The rules made passing easier. Bellichick realized that he had a great QB in Brady; Randy Moss fell into his lap and instead of focusing on defense, he went only after big offensive players. In the big picture, he's probably right - you need a big offense nowadays to win in the NFL. But you still need what can be considered at least a representative defense and right now, the Patriots are at the bottom of the league. It can't be because of salary cap situations, injuries or anyhting like that. Bellichick had lots of draft choices and I guess he just didn't use them well.

We have a lot to learn about the Giants in these next few games when the schedule gets tougher, but we'll learn about these Patriots also. In an interesting schedule twist, the Patriots are playing the two NY teams back to back - Giants in Foxboro this week and Jets at the Met Life Stadium next week.

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