Please North Korea, threaten a terrorist attack over ALL Seth Rogen and James Franco movies from now on. Vat on the Pats
This past week, the inevitable happened: The New England Patriots claimed their sixth straight AFC East title, and are on the fast track (for the millionth time) to the playoffs, with a bye week, and probably home field, in Belichick’s hoodie pouch.
I’ll admit, I wanted to pick the Dolphins to win the AFC at the beginning of the season, but couldn’t. Honestly, I think the way the Pats are playing right now, they might be set for an even 10 straight AFC East titles before all is said and done with the Brady era.
But ENOUGH with the division titles already! It’s time for New England to win a Super Bowl for the first time since 2005. Everything is working in their favor this year. The entire AFC should look easily beatable through New England’s heart-shaped glasses. Now it’s up to them.
This week, I picked the brain of Nick Thornbury, guitarist of New Hampshire-based Vattnet Viskar, to get his opinion on this seemingly Super Bowl-or-bust playoff run the Pats are about to embark on. Thornbury admits that there’s a growing frustration with the Pats not pulling down a title in a decade.
“So, get this: out of the four major teams in Boston, the Pats have actually gone the longest without winning a championship now. How fucked up is that? It's not frustration as much as worry, I'd say. Everyone is aware that Brady's time is coming to a close, and who knows what happens then? For a team that usually plays so well, there probably should be/have been a couple more championships here. I just try not to think about those Super Bowl games against the Giants.”
Well, the Pats don’t have to worry about the Giants this year. But there’s a bunch of usual suspects, new and old, that they’re certain to have run-ins with by the time they get to Arizona.
“As much as I hate to admit it, I'd have to say [we have to look out for] Denver. Just knowing that the Pats destroyed them in the regular season doesn't give me total confidence. Seeing as all it would take is Peyton having a big day, and a couple of big mistakes from the Pats to send them to the golf course, probably crying, I'd like to avoid that possibility for sure. I hate Peyton as much as any self-respecting New England fan, but it's stupid to overlook him.”
I’ve been very vocal in this column over the past few months saying that the Pats NEED to look out for the Colts in the playoffs this year. I LOVE the way Andrew Luck is playing, and the Colts are having a quiet season made for spoiler teams, especially since they’ve lost two straight to New England. I expressed this concern to Nick:
“I’m not really [worried about the Colts], honestly. Luck is great, and I think Indy is definitely on the right track with their team. But this is when I think the experience, or resolve, or whatever you'd like to call it, of the Pats really would pay off. Of course, they did lose to suck-bag Joe Flacco a couple of years ago, so I could definitely end up eating my words.”
If you follow the Sports Illustrated Power Rankings as closely as I do, you’d find that the Pats are atop the league this week. Arguably, they are the most well-rounded team in the NFL right now: great coaching, an MVP-caliber QB that can win in a shootout if necessary, good defense and good special teams, and arguably the best position player in the league, tight end Rob Gronkowski. Nick argues that the potential weakness of the team is the offensive line.
“We’re pretty well-rounded, finally. Getting Revis on defense has been HUGE. He helped shore up that whole side of the ball. I'd have to say the offensive line [would be our weakness]. They can be pretty inconsistent at times, and when people start getting to Brady, it's all downhill from there. The teams with really good pass rushers definitely worry me.”
Mark my words: watch out for a guy named DeMarcus Ware in the playoffs, Pats fans. Other than that, y'all might be golden to let Brady do his thing, which as we all know is win, and swear uncontrollably on the sidelines.
Bless Vattnet Viskar for this interview. They fucking rule! Check them out late January/erly February in the Midwest and on the East Coast as they come up to my neck of the woods to record their new album with my friend Sanford Parker (who’s not a football fan).
Thank You, Sir. May I Have Another?
Multiple reports are starting to come out saying that every time Andrew Luck gets sacked, he congratulates the guy who sacks him (there’s several audio clips of it going around now). Andrew Luck is seriously at this point one of the weirdest good players in the NFL. It’s almost like he is one of those kids who’s out-of-his-mind mentally disabled, but a genius at the same time. Like the guy in Cube.
A psychologist would probably look at Luck’s strategy as a form of reverse psychology. If you show a person trying to hurt you that what they're doing doesn’t hurt, they will do the opposite to try and hurt you (which in this case would be NOT sacking you). Luck’s offensive line actually sucks. Just ask Trent Richardson why his production in Indy isn’t as good as it has been in Alabama and Cleveland. What camouflages the lackluster o-line is the fact that Luck arguably has the quickest release in football. Also, he may be the best quarterback on the scramble in the game. He’s having fun now, like a kid who likes getting hurt at a hardcore show. It’s making him feel alive. Once he blows out his knee from a hit and get shelved for a significant amount of time, he’ll be the guy who stands on the side of pits holding up his forearm to protect him from karate kicks.
I smell something very interesting coming down the pike in the NFC South these next two weeks that will have massive implications for the playoffs and the 2015 NFL draft.
As much as they don’t want you to believe, every team in the NFC South wants to make the playoffs. After this week’s destruction of the Chicago Bears, it would appear that New Orleans is the favorite to win the division. All the Saints have to do is win out and they'll make the playoffs. They play Atlanta this week at home, which I’m fairly certain they will win, and end Atlanta’s playoff chances (and rightfully so). Carolina, however, has Cleveland at home this week. Can Johnny Manziel go on the road and lead a Browns team to a win in a hostile environment smelling the playoffs? I don’t think so.
So, it comes down to the last week of football, in which Carolina goes to Atlanta and the Saints go to Tampa. Carolina is going to smell blood and win this game, even though the Falcons will have everything to play for, and nothing to lose, in beating them. Then there’s the Tampa Bay Bucs. It will be like a Super Bowl for them in front of their home crowd. Them beating the Saints will keep them out of the playoffs. And Tampa can do it. There's a new regime in Tampa under Lovie Smith, which will surely be back for next season. They’d love to go into next season on a high note.
Here’s the rub: Said regime also doesn’t have a legit quarterback entering 2015. Playing hard and gnawing out a win to spite the Saints will also likely cost Tampa Bay the number one pick in the draft. Even if they fall down to number two, they will not have their chance to get the ever-coveted Marcus Mariota out of Oregon. They’d have to settle for the equally talented, but discipline problem, Jameis Winston out of Florida State. There is some validity in the Bucs drafting Winston, because of the close proximity to where he played college ball and the fans that will follow him over. But that said, Mariota is the closest thing scouts have labeled as the total package since Andrew Luck was drafted out of Stanford. The Bucs also know that Mariota would be their starting quarterback and team leader come week one of next season. With a division as spotty as the NFC South, they literally could go from a two-win team to a division winner next year.
The Bucs sit with the number one draft pick for the next two weeks, as they are likely to get pummeled by the Packers in Green Bay this weekend. But that final week, we will see if pride takes over, or intelligence wins out.
My advice to Lovie Smith’s Bucs is the same that Marcellus Wallace gave Butch Coolidge: Fuck pride! It only hurts.
Tailgating: Emphasis on Tail
And finally this week, the finest in Detroit Lions pregaming...
(Photo by Terry Richardson)
Pick of the Week
Oakland +5 1/5 over Buffalo