Reid Fischer's World of Rants

Looking at the sports world through orange colored glasses

Don’t be so quick to hand Pats the trophy

Posted by mizzou1028 on January 7, 2008

I don’t know about you, but I am getting very tired of hearing how the Patriots are the so called “greatest team ever” after finishing the regular season 16-0.  No question that’s a tremendous accomplishment, after all no one else has managed to go undefeated through a 16 game regular season.  With a win Saturday night against Jacksonville in the divisonal playoff round, the Patriots would tie the 1972 Dolphins at 17-0.  I’m certainly not denying their accomplishment, but let’s at least wait until the playoffs are over before we crown someone the best to ever play the game.  It seems to me that a prerequisite to being the “greatest team ever” is that you need to win a Super Bowl.  If the Patriots go on to win their next three games and win a championship, then I’ll admit that it would be next to impossible not to give them their due.  That being said, if you think it’s automatic they’ll win the title, then you’ve got another thing coming. 

There have been plenty of teams in history, especially recently, that have had great regular seasons but have not won the Super Bowl.  The 1998 Vikings went 15-1, had one of the best offenses ever, and lost to Atlanta in the NFC Championship Game.  The 2001 Rams went 15-1, had one of the greatest offenses ever and lost the Super Bowl (ironically to New England, who was a huge underdog).  The 2005 Colts started 13-0, were figured to be a shoo in for a title, and got surprised at home by a red hot Pittsburgh team.    So just because a team has a great regular season, it doesn’t mean things will go the same way in the playoffs. 

For starters, the playoffs are quite a bit different than the regular season.  New England won’t have any games against 1-15 Miami or the no talent Jets.  New England is going to have a difficult matchup every week from here on out.  Saturday night’s game against Jacksonville can’t be considered a cakewalk by any means because the Jaguars are a team that can run the ball with Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew, and can control the clock with that running game.  They also have a very physical defense that can shut down the running game and put pressure on Tom Brady.  The Patriots have shown during the season to be a pass first team, and certainly they’ve been excellent throwing the ball, but history has proven you need to be able to run to have success in the playoffs.   While the Pats have a talented back in Laurence Maroney, they haven’t really been in a position where they need to run the ball in the fourth quarter to seal a game, and it will be interesting to see how they handle that situation.   Should the Patriots get by Jacksonville, they would be looking at a rematch with either the Colts or Chargers.  If it’s Indianapolis, I’m not so quick to bet against Peyton Manning, not am I quick to discount the fact the Colts are the reigning champs.  When the Patriots and Colts squared off in November, the Colts had a 10 point lead with 9 minutes to go that they let slip away, so they will want revenge.  Indianapolis believe it or not also has a stingier defense than New England (I’m not making this up, check it out for yourself at nfl.com).  The Colts have also debunked the myth over the past few years that they can’t play in bad weather.  If New England has to play the Chargers, keep in mind San Diego is quite a bit better now than when New England beat them in week two.  The Chargers want revenge for last year’s loss to New England in the playoffs, and they have enough offensive skill talent to keep up with the Patriots.  Should New England get by these games to get to the Super Bowl, they could face a rematch with Dallas.  The Cowboys, like the Chargers, are much better now than when they played the Patriots in October.  The Cowboys had a fourth quarter lead in the previous meeting, and have enough offensive talent to keep up.  Or, the Patriots could be looking at a game against Green Bay, in what could be Brett Favre’s final game.  Would you one to discount Favre in that scenerio?  Me neither. 

In my mind, the greatest team that I’ve ever seen is the 1989 49ers, who actually finished the regular season 14-2.  What made them great was the way the steamrolled through the playoffs; a 41-13 win over Minnesota in the divisional round, a 30-3 victory over a very talented Rams team in the NFC Championship Game, and (it really pains me to say this) a 55-10 pasting of my Broncos in Super Bowl XXIV.  That 49ers team had Hall of Fame talent at every position, names like Montana, Rice, Craig and Lott.  Or you can look at the 85 Bears, who posted two playoff shutouts before steamrolling New England 46-10 in the Super Bowl.  The point is that the best teams play their best in the playoffs, and what made those two teams truly great was they way they dominated three good teams in the playoffs.  If the Patriots can post three convincing wins over the excellent competition that awaits them, then they will get their well deserved due.  But let’s wait to see how they handle the pressure of the playoffs before we anoint them with the crown of the best ever. 

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