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Has any team faced a tougher schedule then the New England Patriots this season? Consider this, the Patriots opened the season playing five undefeated teams in five straight games. Holy Schnikes! Then after playing two winless teams, they finally played a team without a zero in its record. One week later, they met the 8-0 Colts. Now they are gearing up for another undefeated team, the 10-0 New Orleans Saints.
That means out of eleven games so far, the Pats will have played seven undefeated teams. Has that ever happened in the history of the NFL? Probably not. Their record against these teams is 3-3, so far. The Patriots have been one of the most dominate teams of the last decade and this is how they’ve matched up against this seasons’ best.
The Main Attraction: The debut of Terrell Owens vs The return of Tom Brady
The Game: The first Monday Night Football game of the season was one for the ages. Tom Brady looked good in his return, but was nothing special. With 2:06 left in the fourth quarter and the Patriots down 24-13, Brady threw his first touchdown pass of the season to Ben Watson. On the ensuing kickoff, Buffalo’s Leodis McKelvin fumbled the ball and New England recovered. Three plays later, Brady connected with Watson again to give the Pats the 25-24 win.
The Aftermath: It was a big win for the Patriots and was expected to give them a boost next week. For Buffalo, they dropped four of their first five games. Owens has had some of the worst games of his career in Buffalo and the Bills have already fired their head coach Dick Jauron. Things aren’t looking good and the Bills are even looking into the possibility of relocating to Toronto. Buffalo will look for some type of revenge in Week 15.
The Main Attraction: Will Jets Embarrass The Pats?
The Game: The focus was on Kerry Rhodes and Jets head coach Rex Ryan, who were jabber-jawing weeks before the game about embarrassing the Patriots. Thanks to Darrelle Revis holding Randy Moss to 24 yards and Wes Welker missing the game, the Patriots offense couldn’t get going and lost 16-9. Not embarrassment, but a loss nonetheless. It was a defensive battle and easily the biggest win for the Jets for the season, and they continued to talk about it.
The Aftermath: After starting 3-0, the Jets have lost six of their past seven and are currently in the midst of a three-game losing streak. Rex Ryan no longer looks like a genius and Mark Sanchez has been dubbed “Joe Schmoe.” Last week, the Patriots didn’t get into the war of words, but instead demolished the Jets 31-14 and have sent the Jets to a rugged 4-6 record. Talk about embarrassing.
The Main Attraction: The young birds vs the old Pats
The Game: With Matt Ryan and the Falcons being one of the hottest team in the league, many expected the birds to fly all over New England. The Patriots offense looked horrendous the week before, so no one expected anything big. However, Atlanta’s Michael Turner, one of the best running backs in the league, was outplayed by the veteran Fred Taylor, who rushed for 105 yards and a touchdown. Up 19-10 in the fourth, Tom Brady snapped a seven quarter touchdown drought when he connected with Chris Baker for a 36-yard catch to the house. The Patriots rebounded for a 26-10 win and were 2-1 on the season.
The Aftermath: The Falcons took a week off before rebounding with a blowout against the 49ers in Week 5. They continued to go 2-4 in the next six games and are currently 5-5 and fighting for a playoff spot. The win against Atlanta was the 16th straight for New England against NFC teams.
The Main Attraction: Ravens New Offense Compliments Potent Defense
The Game: Coming into the games, the talk was of Joe Flacco and the new and improved Baltimore offense. Flacco’s 47 attempts were a career high. Tom Brady rushed for a touchdown and connected with Randy Moss for the first time since Super Bowl XLII. The Ravens made it close in the fourth on a Willis McGahee touchdown. Then with 28 seconds left in the game, Flacco made a perfect throw to Mark Clayton on fourth down. Clayton dropped the ball inside the ten-yard line and gave the Patriots the 27-21 win. It was another exciting win for New England this season.
The Aftermath: The loss brought the Ravens back down to earth, as they dropped their next three games. Overall on the season, they are 5-5 and third in the AFC North, behind the Steelers and Bengals. The Ravens have an excellent young team behind Flacco and Ray Rice and will look to make a push for the playoffs starting with an injured Steelers team in Week 12. However, the once-proud Ravens defense will need to reemerge if they want to see action in January.
The Main Attraction: The Mentor vs The Protege
The Game: The hoopla might have surrounded Josh McDaniels vs Bill Belichick, but it was a late game-tying drive that was the story. But this drive was not by Tom Brady. In the mustard yellow and brown uniforms, Kyle Orton took the Broncos 98 yards down the field and capped it off with an eleven yard touchdown pass to Brandon Marshall. Orton is no Brady, but on that day he outplayed the two time Super Bowl MVP, throwing for 330 yards and two touchdowns. New England was held without a score in the second half. Ouch. The final score: Broncos 20, New England 17.
The Aftermath: The Broncos won their next game against the Chargers before dropping four straight. Denver then gave thanks on Thanksgiving as they steamrolled the Giants. They are currently first in the AFC West, but are tied with San Diego. New England recovered from its second loss of the season by taking out all frustrations on the winless Titans, 59-0. However, that wasn’t enough as they traveled all the way to England to shred the Buccaneers 35-7. After an ensuing bye week, the Patriots finally played the Dolphins, their first team without a zero in their record. The result was a 27-17 win and the Patriots being 6-2 on the season.
The Main Attraction: Manning vs Brady
The Game: The game was everything football fans could have asked for and then some. Manning and Brady were in their prime and the defenses played surprisingly well. New England was going for a fourth and two on their own 28th. Wait! What? They tried, they failed, they lost. Manning took over and scored easily to Reggie Wayne with 13 seconds left. New England blew a 34-21 lead in the final three minutes and couldn’t spoil Indianapolis’ attempt at a perfect season. The Colts’ 35-34 win is an instant classic and an example that Bill Belichick isn’t perfect.
The Aftermath: The Colts have looked less then super lately needing last minute drives to stop not only the Patriots, but also the 49ers, Texans, and Ravens. They are struggling running the ball and are putting their perfect season in jeopardy. After the Colts game, the Patriots returned to Foxboro to crush the Jets 31-14. The moral of that game, you do not want to play the Patriots after they lose. Expect the Colts and Patriots to see each other again later this season…in perhaps the AFC Championship Game?
The Main Attraction: Are the Saints really this good?
New England has had some season already. Currently, they are sitting atop the AFC East with a 7-3 record, with all of their losses coming from teams above .500 (when the Pats faced them). New England missed a golden opportunity to knock the Colts perfect season off its track and will look to spoil the Saints fun. Fun fact: the last time the Patriots played a meaningful game in New Orleans was their first Super Bowl victory. A win on Monday night means the Patriots will be 4-3 against undefeated teams this season, which is more than any other team can say.