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The bye-week could not have come at a better time for the banged up New England Patriots. With injuries to Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Logan Mankins, Brandon Spikes, and a good amount of the secondary, a bye could be just what the doctor ordered for the second half of the season.
The Patriots stand at 5-3 with some ugly wins and losses so far. But they still are just four points away from coming out of the bye week at 8-0. An ugly loss at home to the Kevin Kolb and the Arizona Cardinals and a tough conference loss to the Baltimore Ravens has the Patriots in warmer waters than they would like to be. The Patriots must perfect the McOffense in the second half and score early in games like we have been accustomed to in the past. And the secondary must play much better. The front seven has played well this year, especially when blitzing. Hopefully more blitz packages and the addition of Aqib Talib can right the ship.
But fear not Pats fans, if history repeats itself, the Patriots are in store for a big second half. In the last two seasons after coming out of their bye week, the Patriots are 19-3. 8-2 in 2011 and 11-1 in 2010. And in both regular seasons, they finished 8-0 down the stretch. With that said, here are my projections for the last eight games:
The Patriots should have no problem handing the Bills at home. Especially after romping on them 52-28 in week 4. The Bills’ three wins have come against Cleveland, Kansas City, and an Arizona team that has lost 5 in a row.
Prediction: Patriots 41, Bills 17
Andrew Luck and the inspired and red hot Colts have been this years surprise team. Luck has been torching defenses this season, both in the air and on the ground. This should be a tough matchup for the Patriots defense. But Tom Brady and company find a way to pull this one out at home.
Prediction: Patriots 27, Colts 24
The Pats secondary, for lack of a better word, had a terrible game against Mark Sanchez in the Jets back in week 7. Bill Belichick will not let that happen again on Thanksgiving night in the Meadowlands, and give us another reason to be thankful: Rex Ryan is not our coach.
Prediction: Patriots 35 Jets 13
Side Prediction: Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Chandler Jones, and Rob Ninkovich all get turkey legs after the game.
The Patriots face Miami for the first time this season. The Fins’ four wins this year have come against Oakland, Cincinnati, St. Louis, and the Jets. But they also are two overtime losses to the Jets and Cardinals, and a three point loss to the Colts away from being 7-1. This will be a dog fight for the Patriots against a Miami defense that has given up a good amount of yards (22nd in the NFL) but not a lot of points (18.6, 6th).
Prediction: Patriots 27 Dolphins 17
The Patriots host the Texans on Monday Night Football in what will be a great game with home field advantage on the line. The Texans have been good, but not great this year. Matt Schaub has not been impressive, while Aaron Foster and their play-making defense has been. The were spanked by Green Bay at home in week 6 and followed that up with a spanking of their own against the Baltimore Ravens. And then beat Buffalo in a game that was closer than many projected. But they are a force to be reckoned with, and the Pats are that force. Brady and company show the league that if you want to make it to the Super Bowl, you are going to have to beat the Pats.
Prediction: Patriots 31 Texans 21
If you know anything about football, you know that Alex Smith is not a good quarterback. San Fran’s defense has been their recipe for success. This is especially true since Week 4 after only allowing 38 points in five games (26 of those points in a loss to the New York Giants). Overall, the 49ers have not been tested this year except in their two losses (Giants, Minnesota Vikings) and their Week 1 win against Green Bay at Lambeau Field. They will be tested at Gillette Stadium, and they will not pass. Patriots will win this one in a low scoring affair on Sunday Night Football.
Prediction: Patriots 20, 49ers 13
Easy win. Not much to say here. Patriots go down to Jacksonville and torch the Jags’ 25th ranked defense.
Prediction: Patriots 45, Jaguars 13
Side Bet: If the Patriots lose this one I will name my first born “Maurice Jones-Drew Miller”. Boy or girl.
This is a game that could very easily go either way. For one, it depends on what the playoff picture looks like and whether or not the Pats need the win. If they do, it very well might be a nail bitter like it was last year when Miami visited at the end of the year (27-24). If the game does not matter to the Patriots, expect them to rest the starters for a good amount of the game. But then again, who knows, it’s Bill Belichick. The only thing I do know is that it will be cold, very cold.
Prediction: Patriots 24, Dolphins 21
Knowing the Patriots with their history and remaining schedule, I would be shocked if they did not head into the playoffs with 12 wins. But for that to happen, the defensive secondary must step up.
Final Prediction: 13-3 1st in AFC East, 1st seed in AFC playoffs