So we have reached week 9 of the NFL football season. The calendar has turned to November, temperatures are dropping, leaves are falling, and daylight savings time has come and gone. Some might argue football season is officially underway. Week 9 will come to an end after tonight’s game between the Bears and Chargers, leaving the number of undefeated teams down to three. The remaining unbeaten teams are the Patriots, Panthers, and Bengals. The rest of the regular season games are extremely vital for teams trying to clinch the playoffs, gain home field advantage, land a first round bye, or of course win their division. So what should Patriots fans expect for the second half of the season?
The first game I want to point out is the November 29th game against the Denver Broncos. Yes, that’s the game every fan circled on their calendars back when the schedule was first released, and with good reason. The Brady vs Manning matchup has always been one of the best, featuring arguably two of the best quarterbacks that we will ever see. For Patriots fans, it’s been more enjoyable seeing that Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are 11-5 against Peyton Manning. Now since the Broncos just lost their first game of the season yesterday, this seasons upcoming matchup did just lose a little steam. The two teams will still be playing for the #1 and #2 seeds in the AFC, but obviously we lost the chance to witness two 11-0 teams playing that late in the season. This will still be a tough matchup for the Patriots though, because the Denver Broncos have a tough defense, and it’s never easy to go into Mile High and get a win.
A second game that could present a challenge for the Patriots is in week 16 against the New York Jets. Everybody is well aware of the Boston vs New York rivalry, or the continued he-said-she-said drama between the two organizations, whether it’s on social media sites, press conferences, or locker room interviews.
Remember Rex Ryan saying he wasn’t here to kiss Belichick’s rings?
How about Eric Mangini’s decision to leave the Patriots to become the head coach of the Jets? That led to Spygate, which led to Belichick not shaking hands with Mangini, which led to Belichick hugging Mangini, which eventually led to Mangini losing his job.
How about two weeks ago when the NFL swept the Jets’ locker room for bugs and interrogated three Patriots employees during the second quarter of the game, because the Jets accused the Patriots of cheating. Surprise, surprise.
The Jets are now 5-3 and are falling behind the AFC East standings, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be champing at the bit when the Patriots come into Met Life Stadium. They do present matchup problems for the Patriots, and always seem to play their best football against them.
One last thing to look forward to for the second half the season is the return of starting center Bryan Stork. Stork, who sat out eight weeks because of head and neck injuries, made his first appearance on the field and played center, left guard, left tackle and right tackle during the Patriots 27-10 win over the Washington Redskins. Health has been a concern and that offensive line is pretty banged up right now with left tackle Nate Solder out for the season with torn biceps, and his replacement, Marcus Cannon, has missed the past four games with a toe injury. Right tackle Sebastian Vollmer, had to leave the game yesterday against Washington before halftime with a head injury, and the Patriots were already missing right guard Tre Jackson with a knee injury. Seeing Stork on the field was definitely a relief. The second-year pro has proven that he’s an important part of that offensive line, and there’s nothing more important than keeping Brady upright and healthy.
The Patriots have clearly emerged as the best team in football. Even with other teams keeping their undefeated records intact, New England appears to-be ahead of everyone else. I’m not suggesting another 16-0 season, but as long as this New England Patriots team plays to its ability, and can stay relatively healthy, we could be seeing another deep playoff run, and hopefully another Super Bowl.