Unlike most people in the 21st century—and I’m looking right at you, Ms. Wine Expert and Mr. Fantasy Football Expert—I’m not one to tout myself as all-knowing in a particular field. (This is when you scan to my record at the bottom of this page and mutter to yourself, “Yeah, no shit.”) That said, there is one skill I’ve honed to darn-near expert levels: the art of the apology. This is one of the benefits of 20 years of marriage!
So without further delay, allow me to take this time to sincerely apologize to two fine gentlemen whom I so rudely and recklessly disparaged in this space some six weeks ago:
Tom Brady, Bill Belichick—I’m sorry. I’m sorry that, after your New England Patriots face-planted in Kansas City on the final Monday night in September, I took great delight in thumbing out several texts to friends (including a couple of Patriots fans) contending your reign as the NFL’s gold standard was history. I’m sorry I dared to assert in this column that Brady’s days as an elite quarterback were over and that he couldn’t so much as hold Andy Dalton’s jock. And I’m sorry I topped that column with the following headline: “How the Mighty Have Fallen: A certain Hall of Fame quarterback is in a downward spiral—as is his once-dominant team.”
Actually, upon reflection, I shouldn’t be apologizing to Brady and Belichick so much as I should be the rest of the NFL for taking a stick to a sleeping bear. Because since that 41-14 Monday night massacre in Kansas City, all the Patriots have done is rip off six consecutive victories, going 5-1 against the spread. During this stretch, the offense has averaged 40.5 points per game (tallying 136 points in the last three weeks alone); the defensive has yielded 21.3 ppg; and New England has won four times by more than three touchdowns.
As for the washed-up Golden Boy, he’s thrown for 1,858 yards with 20 touchdowns versus three interceptions during the winning streak, vaulting from 29th in quarterback rating to fifth.
In other words, all the reports of Brady and the Patriots’ demise—by the way, I wasn’t the only one wielding that bear-poking stick—were greatly exaggerated. But, hey, at least I’ve learned my lesson and will be laying the 7 points with New England when it hosts Detroit this week … right? Wrong.
You see, the Lions aren’t exactly pushovers. Yes, they fell 14-6 at Arizona last week, but they’re still 7-3, they still haven’t lost consecutive games all season and they still sport the NFL’s No. 1 defense—and it’s No. 1 by a lot: Detroit is giving up just 15.6 points and 290.3 yards per game (every other team in the league is allowing more than 17 points and more than 300 yards per game).
To put things into perspective, the six defenses the Patriots have faced during their winning streak rank eighth, 15th, 16th, 22nd, 27th and 32nd in points allowed. In fact, Brady and Co. have faced just two teams that currently rank in the top seven in scoring defense: the Chiefs (second) and Dolphins (fourth). Not so ironically, those are the only two squads to defeat New England this season … by the combined score of 74-34.
Will Detroit become the third team to topple the Pats? I wouldn’t be shocked. At the very least, the Lions—who have no-showed just once all year, a 24-7 Week 2 loss at Carolina—will keep this close. And their defense will make the 37-year-old Brady look his age for the first time since the Chiefs loss.
Wait, what’s that you’re asking? Yes, I guess I am siding with Jim Caldwell over Bill Belichick … in a November game … in New England. Yeah, let me get started on crafting my next apology …
Last Week: 4-3 (1-2 NFL;
3-1 college; 0-1 Best Bet).
Season Record: 38-39 (19-21 NFL; 19-18 college; 4-7 Best Bets).
Matt Jacob appears at 10 a.m. Thursdays on Pregame.com’s First Preview on ESPN Radio 1100-AM and 100.9-FM.