Well, the suspension has been handed down, Brady’s taking the NFL to court, and the league seems to be at an all-time high as far as chaos is concerned. It may seem as though this deflate-gate circus is never going to end, but guess what, training camp is starting up and opening day is a little more than a month away. So, as hard as it may seem to be, it’s time to put everything aside and accept the very real possibility that our lord savior, Mr. Tom Terrific, may not be starting the first four games of the year. However, even without Brady, this is a very talented football team coached by the best staff in the league. Belicheck faced this test back in 2008, and for what looks to be the first four games of the season, he will have to confront this challenge once again. I am here to help breakdown how he is going to do it. So, without further ado, here is the preview of the first quarter of the Pat’s season.
Game #1- Pittsburgh Steelers
Out of the initial four games, this one may prove to be the toughest task. Big Ben is coming off of one of his best seasons as a pro, and with the help of pro-bowler Antonio Brown, the Steeler’s offense will test the Patriots right off the bat.
The Patriot’s strength on defense this year is without question their front seven. However, with the suspension of Le’Veon Bell, it will be very surprising if the Steelers try to rush the ball into the teeth of the Pat’s defense. The question then becomes whether the Patriots will be able to get to Ben Roethlisberger before he can sit back and torch them.
I believe that the Patriots do have the capability to do this, especially with the additions of Malcolm Brown and Jabaal Sheard. I also really love what Jamie Collins has done with his game and feel as though he can be a significant impact player not only in this game, but the entire season.
The interesting matchups to watch in this game will most definitely be in the trenches. As I mentioned before Big Ben is coming off of a great year, but so is his offensive line, anchored by veteran Maurkice Pouncey. The line is solid, but if there were to be a soft spot it would be in left tackle Kelvin Beachum. While he has done the job that Steelers have needed him to do, it will be interesting to see if Chandler Jones or perhaps Jabaal Sheard could win some one on one matchups with him and make it a long night for Roethlisberger.
What concerns me about this game is if the Patriots fail to disrupt Big Ben and it turns into a shootout, which is what occurred when these two played in 2013. In that game, Roethlisberger threw for 400 yards and 4 TDs. Now the Pats won because we had Tommy boy throw for 432 yards and 4 TDs in a game in which Edelman only had one catch. Now Jimmy Garoppolo can go round for round with Brady in looks department, but I don’t see him putting up these kinds of numbers against a good Steelers defense.
The Patriots instead will have to rely on a little creativity to help the offense click. With LeGarrette Blount also being suspended for this game I foresee the Patriots using a lot of formations sending the running back out of the backfield. It will be fun to see who emerges as the Shane Vereen role, but my guess is that it will most likely be between Travaris Cadet or Tyler Gaffney, both of whom have showed great promise in practice so far.
As a whole this will be their toughest test, but I feel as though they will play with a fire lit under them, and if their front seven plays up to their potential then the Patriots will walk out with a win. 1-0.
Game #2- @ Buffalo Bills
Buffalo has always been a team that has played the Patriots well, and under the command of Rex Ryan I don’t see that changing anytime soon. The Bills have gone out and added LeSean McCoy to their offensive arsenal, giving solid linebacker Kiko Alonzo in return. They still, however, are without a reliable quarterback. Now, I know it’s not a popular opinion, but I don’t really believe LeSean McCoy is all that good. He dances around too much and is an East-West runner. Sure, that works when you’re a young guy, but as you get older and lose a step that style doesn’t fool anyone. You just end up getting hit at the line of scrimmage for no gain. I found it strange that they traded for him because he is not the type of back the Rex typically likes, and I am curious as to how he will use him.
The Patriots though really should have no problem eating up the Bill’s offensive, but the real test is whether they can stop the Bill’s defense. I said before that the Pat’s have a great front seven, but the Bills are on another level. They have the best D line in the AFC and it is really going to test a shaky Patriots offensive line.
Jimmy is most likely going to have to use his legs in this game to create plays, but it is not an impossible task. We might not be used to it after years of watching Brady, but Jimmy G knows how to scramble. The Bills line is going to be pressuring him all game so it will be noteworthy to see how Garoppolo handles this early in his career. Jimmy does not need to light up the scoreboard, but he does need to show that he is a capable quarterback who is able to deal with the pressure of a legitimate NFL defense.
While this game should not be as tough as the Steelers, it will still be a defensive battle, one that I do see the Patriots coming out with a win, and proving that their defense can help carry them through games. 2-0.
Game #3- Jacksonville Jaguars
Game #4- @ Dallas Cowboys
Now if we are still assuming that Brady is suspended for this game I feel as though it will be very tight. With Brady in there I see the Pat’s running away with it, but without him it will be close. Coming off of bye weeks Patriots are typically slow, and like the Steelers game this one I feel will be a shootout. It is key that the Pats do not go down by too much early or it’s over. To make sure this does not happen a key player they must focus on is, of course, Dez Bryant. Dez just got payed so he’s going to be playing with a little more swagger than normal, and as he does against any team he has the potential to go off.
Now Dez is most likely going to have a solid game because, well he has one every week, but if the Pats try to come out and play him in man coverage I will throw my remote through the TV. Last year, corner back Bradley Fletcher, who was then on the Eagles, got torched by Dez and the Cowboys, allowing Dez to have one of his best receiving performances of his career. I know Dez is going to get his catches, but I just don’t want to have watch a game in which he takes over. If they are going to lose, then let it be someone else who beats them, not Dez.
That being said I believe the Cowboys are going to be trigger happy with the ball considering they lost their star running back, Demarco Murray, and they are going against a defense who is quit susceptible to giving up yards through the air. The hope is that through all of his passing Romo will force some bad balls that result in turnovers and opportunities to put points on the board.
I’m confident that Bill will draw up a defensive scheme that will confuse Romo and result in turnovers. Last year in the playoffs, when the Cowboys played the Packers, the Packers ran mostly a zone, which is what the Patriots will be running, and were able to contain Romo and the Cowboys holding him to just 191 yards of passing. If the Patriots can produce a similar result I am confident they will come out with a win.
It should be an entertaining game to watch, and see the Patriots riding their momentum of the previous three games, out of their bye week, and into Dallas. 4-0.
Well I guess it’s no surprise that writer on for a biased Boston sports site has the Patriots starting 4-0, but that is honestly what I believe. They are a solid team with great coaching and they have a lot of potential, especially on the defensive side of the ball. The league better watch out though, because when Brady comes back it’s going to be 2007 all over again. (Without the whole losing to the Giants thing.)
By Jake Cianci @JakeCianci