(via okthrowaway2008 on reddit)
The Patriots found themselves overwhelmed by themselves, the Bengals and a late-game monsoon last week in Cincinnati. The team's slide to seventh in this week's poll reflects all the problems that manifested themselves, especially on offense, in the Queen City.
Nothing gets easier this week against the New Orleans Saints, even though the team is playing on what is supposed to be a beautiful Sunday fall afternoon in Foxborough.
As if coming off a 13-6 defeat was difficult enough. The Patriots need to look no futher than at their tickets for this week's game to see what they've lost in just the past two weeks. The Patriots have been dogged by bad luck when it comes to featuring players on their various printed materials. Aaron Hernandez was the player of the month for August on the team's official 2013 calendar, which was printed a year earlier.
The tickets for this week's game - home game No. 3 - feature none other than Vince Wilfork. The anchor of the Patriots' defensive line was injured two weeks ago in Atlanta and this week's game is the first home game since his injury.
So the Patriots have had a slew of bad breaks in the past 10 months. Some are just plain bad luck, to wit these printing miscues. Others were the result of [alleged] murderous, sociopathic behavior. A few are the result of injury. And at least one has sprung from a disastrous decision by the front office.
Wilfork was hurt during a routine play early in a competitive game.
This team all of a sudden can't catch a break, unless it's Rob Gronkowski's arm. Gronk initially broke his arm last season blocking for the final extra point with 3:55 to play during the Patriots 59-24 victory over the Colts. The NFL establishment and State Run Media circled the wagons to back up Bill Belichick for having Gronkowski and the rest of the team's starters in so late during a blowout. Gronk was part of the simple blocking scheme for the extra point, so his presence on the field during a PAT try was not extraordinary.
But kicking that PAT, or having key skill players on the field at that time of the game when its outcome was determined was foolish, even if it's standard operating procedure for Belichick. This is one error that keeps on giving.
There are rumblings that the elbow surgery initially performed by team doctor Tom Gill may have been unnecessary. WEEI's Mike Petraglia this week reported Gronk and the Patriots opted for the surgery, which resulted in several infections, even though his arm could have possibly healed without it. WEEI also reported there are ?serious concern? about the strength of the bone where the surgery occurred.
Any decision as to when/if Gronkowski plays has been taken out of the hands of the Patriots and will be made by a team of doctors led by Dr. James Andrews.
Gronk is not expected to play this week despite a full week of practice.
Jimmy Graham, the Saints tight end who will probably be causing the Patriots misery all day Sunday, usually blocks on extra points for his team. Of course, Graham is healthy as a horse and has been playing like a thoroughbred all season. He should be a primary target for Drew Brees on Sunday since the Patriots have no one who can match up with him in terms of height in their secondary or linebacker corps. Jerod Mayo may lead the Patriots with 10 or 15 tackles this week, but most will likely come eight or 10 yards downfield after Brees has found his first, second or third options. Brees completed 10 passes to Graham for 135 yards last week. Running back Darren Sproles gives Brees another short, dump-off option if the Saints deep threats are covered.
In Gronk's defense, he's not removing himself out of the lineup this season while taking three months to recover from falling asleep while holding his 2-year-old. Gronk followed the directive of his coach to block on that ill-fated extra point. He followed the advice of the team's doctor, after checking with his family, to undergo that initial surgery in 2012 to hurry back in time for the playoffs. And he re-injured the arm playing balls-out against the Texans, as he's done on every down he's ever played.
If he's indeed "injury prone," he's already had two back surgeries that are unrelated to his arm issues, that's not a character flaw. It's just the way he's made and the way he plays.
No one forced the Patriots to give Gronk and Hernandez each their larger-than-life-for-a-tight-end contract. A jury hasn't come close to being convened in Hernandez's case. It's still out on Gronk's deal.
The Patriots thought they were outsmarting the rest of us and the NFL with those deals, just like Belichick knew what he was doing when he had Brady and the full offensive contingent in against the Colts with a 52-24 lead late in that blowout last November.
In Bill We Trust.
Not always foolproof.
But it's still the best we've got.
Here are this week's rankings. Teams are listed with their record and last week's ranking.
Here's the Week 5 GIF of the week, courtesy of Eli Manning and the Bears.
1. Broncos (5-0; 2) - Here's one sign of hope for the rest of the AFC. The Broncos have allowed 139 points this season, the second-most in the conference [tied with Texas] behind the Jaguars' 163. The spread in this week's Broncos-Jaguars game hit 28 points, which, if it holds, would make it the largest spread ever since the AFL and NFL merged in 1970. The previous record came on Dec. 5, 1976 when the Steelers were 27-point favorites over the winless Bucs and won 42-0.
By the way, the NFL condemns gambling.
2. Saints (5-0; 4) - Under defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, the Saints are becoming a legit defensive threat. And there's no reason to believe he's needed bounties to do it. Among the improvements made by the team [from last season to this one] fourth in points allowed per game up from 31st (28.3) to (14.6); 32nd in yards allowed to 11th (440.1) to (330.4), 15 QB sacks and a plus-6 turnover margin. This could mean a long day for Brady.
3. Chiefs [sorry if you're offended] (5-0; 5) - Root against them so Tony Gonzalez will more likely want to come to New England.
4. Seahawks (4-1: 1) - Guess their 4-0 record was phony, too.
5. Colts (4-1; 6) - Andrew Luck is a young Brady minus the Super Bowl rings.
6. Bengals (4-1; 7) - Speaking of all-world defensive coordinators, Mike Zimmer put on a great show during this year's version of HBO's "Hard Knocks" and backed all of it up last week against the Patriots.
7. Patriots (4-1; 3) - Brady's streak of 52 games with a touchdown pass may have ended last Sunday, but his 12-year streak of looking devastatingly handsome in postgame press conferences continues unabated:
8. Bears (4-2; 10) - Coolest move of Mental Health Awareness week was Brandon Marshall wearing green shoes to raise awareness of mental illness. There are other diseases out there after all. Who knew watching the NFL? Marshall is matching whatever fine the NFL levies against him [likely $10,000] with a donation to charity. Karma loved it as Marshall caught two touchdowns in the Bears' victory over the Midgets.
Good look at Brandon Marshall's green cleats http://t.co/HWj5Gpz79O— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) October 11, 2013
9. Lions (3-2; 8) - Center Dominic Raiola saved his best stuff for The [University of] Wisconsin Band before last Sunday's loss to the Packers at Lambeau Field. Raiola reportedly mocked several band members over the weight, questioned one members sexuality and said the band "sucked." The Lions offense also "sucked" and was unable to produce a touchdown against one of the league's weakest defense.
10. Dolphins (3-2; 9) - Last week, the Dolphins were on pace to give up 72 sacks this season. Now, that pace has quickened to 78. Mercifully for Ryan Tannehill, the team has a bye this week.
11. 49ers (3-2; 15) - Using their ground game to get back into things in their past two games, beating St. Louis and Houston by a combined score of 69-14 and running for at least 175 yards in their past two games. Frank Gore has gained 233 yards on 37 carries [6.3 yards] and scored two TDs.
12. Browns (3-2; 12) - The Browns are on their third QB of the young season but are doing a stellar job at holding on to the ball. Brandon Weeden has thrown 99 passes without an interception and the team has not turned the ball over in two game.
14. Ravens (3-2; 8) - Terrell Suggs was back big-time against the Dolphins last week, recording three sacks in the fourth quarter against Miami.
15. Jets (3-2; 25) - Geno Smith is being touted as the "Second Coming." Turns out he's the second coming of Mark Sanchez. [Note the Giants headline in the lower right corner - that must be an old copy]:
16. Cardinals (3-2; 27) - Coach Bruce Arians told Sirius/XM radio this week he doesn't not want his team participating in "Hard Knocks" next season, if he can help it. Come on, it worked wonders for the Bengals.
17. Texans (2-3; 12) - Houston is ranked No. 1 in the NFL in total defense [yards allowed]. But that just proves the old Belichickian maxim that "stats are for losers."
18. Cowboys (2-3; 16) - Tony Romo threw for 506 yards, five touchdowns and completed 25 of 36 passes for 140.0 QB rating last week. His defense gave up 51 points to Denver.
But this is the only thing anyone remembers:
Nobody said life was fair?
19. Chargers (2-3; 17) - Who stayed up for last Sunday night's affair against the Raiders that began at 11:35 p.m.? Didn't think so.
20. Packers (2-2; 19) - Here's something you'd never see on the Patriots. A running back not ending up in the doghouse after fumbling the ball. Rookie Johnathan Franklin fumbled the ball last week after giving it up in a loss to the Bengals a week earlier. His punishment? Nothing. "I didn't say, 'Hey, you're done for the rest of the game because you put the ball on the ground,' because I don't think he's that guy," running backs coach Alex Van Pelt told ESPN.com. "
21. Eagles (2-3; 20) - More stats, although these tell the story perfectly for Chip Kelly's team. It ranks 31st in total defense and second in total offense, and first in rushing.
22. Rams (2-3; 21) - The Rams, who play at Houston this week, rank 29th on total offense. You can tell where this one is going.
23. Falcons (1-4; 18) - Time to hit up Tony Gonzalez on Twitter and tell him how much you'd love to see him in a Patriots' uniform once the Falcons officially give up on the season. They have a bye this week, so, no, they are not hiding in shame after losing to the Jets.
24. Vikings (1-3; 24) - Condolences to Adrian Peterson and his family.
25. Bills (2-3; 26) - The Bills this week said they are not actively trying to trade safety Jarius Byrd, but they'd be willing to listen to offers for him.
26. Redskins [apologies if you're offended] (1-3; 23) - They're still the Redskins, despite President Obama's wishes to the contrary. Meanwhile, the National Park Service has been ordered to close off all roads leading to FedExField.
27. Panthers (1-3; 28) - Coach Ron Rivera, who is an all-around good guy, has landed on the unofficial coaching hot seat.
28. Raiders (2-3; 29) - Visit undefeated Kansas City this week. Have won three straight against their long-time AFC West/AFL foes.
29. Steelers (0-4; 22) - Coach Mike Tomlin has found the solution to his team's winless start - no more "games" in the locker room. That's right, no more billiards, table shuffleboard or table tennis for both veterans and rookies, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The games were originally installed in the locker room as a reward for making the Super Bowl in 2008 and 2010.
30. Bucs (0-4; 31) - Tampa Bay's 31st-ranked offense has a great chance to get some traction this week against the Eagles.
31. Giants (0-6; 23) - Yes, Eli has his two Super Bowl rings. But if Brady was ever 0-6 the NFL and internet would explode. Any comparison between those two has been exposed as a joke. [BTW, in both Super Bowl losses, Brady left the field in both games with less than four minutes to play with the lead. And he didn't get to engineer his two-minute drives against New England's defense, either.]
32. Jaguars (0-5; 32) - Jacksonville has won three straight against Denver. So there's that. The Jaguars' lone win of the season thus far came this week on Twitter:
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