Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Fate of the Pats

What do the following teams have in common:

  • 1963 Giants
  • 1981 Chargers
  • 1984 Dolphins
  • 1998 Vikings
  • 2004 Colts 

Each of these teams had dominant, eye-popping, record-breaking offenses...and each of them lost in January.

In 1963, Y.A. Tittle tied the NFL record with 36 TD passes - a record that would stand until Dan Marino in 84.   (even Dan Fouts, with a longer season, couldn't break it). The team averaged 32 points a game.  But on a cold January day in Chicago, the Giants scored 10, and lost the NFL championship.

In 1981, Dan Fouts broke his own passing yards record with 4,802 yds, and threw 33 TDs (2nd highest all time). But in January, Air Coryell was grounded on a frigid day in Cincinnati.

Three years later, Dan Marino threw for over 5000 yards and 48 TDs, both records - but then had the misfortune of running into the '84 Niners, maybe the greatest team ever.

In 1998, the Minnesota Vikings scored a record 556 points, but lost to the Falcons in the NFC Championship.

And in 2004, Peyton Manning broke Marino's 20 year-old TD record - but the air attack was shut down by the Foxboro Frost and the Belichick D.

I mention all of this because there is a team up in New England that has already broken the Vikings points record, and is on the verge of breaking some of the aforementioned passing records. Will this team suffer the same fate as the others?

There are three differences between this team and the others that suggest they won't.

One, they have a pretty good defense. Two, they are coached by an all-time great at the top of his game. And three, that locker room is filled with people who've been to the Promised Land many times before.

And yet...I think they're going down in January.

As I mentioned previously, the Patriots' high-powered offense has really slowed down the last 5 games. And this isn't's directly tied to the weather. The 81 Chargers and the 04 Colts went to cold-weather places and scored a combined 10 points. What's particularly interesting about New England is that they are a cold-weather franchise. The four teams above all played in warm weather or domes.

This might be a rare case in the NFL where home-field advantage is a bad thing. I'd love the Patriots' chances playing in San Diego or Jacksonville, or under the RCA Dome. But if they have to play one of those teams in a cold and windy day in Foxboro, they will go down. The downfield passing attack will struggle, and the rest of the team just isn't good enough without it. So if you're a Patriots' fan, root for the Sun to shine on two days in January.

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