Life of a Sportsaholic

This blog is intended to be insight into my life as an irrational, stats-driven, obsessive sports fan in Boston. I am a fan of all types of sports with an emphasis on Boston teams and am a proud UConn alum.

Tag: miami dolphins

RIP 2018 Patriots Season

Photo from Orlando Sentinel

It’s an unfamiliar word for football fans in New England: failure. After losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, an already mediocre season (by Patriots standards) got worse and the playoff picture became even more concerning. The yearly expectation of Super Bowl or bust puts the stakes at almost impossible heights in New England, but year in and year out the Patriots defy the odds and find a way to make a serious run at a title. We, the fans, are conditioned to expect miraculous comebacks and never count the team out regardless of scenario. I would be willing to bet most of Patriot nation was watching the final drive of the Steelers game on Sunday expecting Brady to take the team down the field in less than 3 mins and score a TD to tie the game. I know I was. Unfortunately, this year is different for the Pats, and we should adjust our expectations now to avoid (more) disappointment later.

There is a laundry list of things that separate this year’s team from previous incarnations of Belichick’s squad, but the underlying theme is the same in all of them: focus and discipline.

The one thing that has always separated Bill Belichick-run teams from everyone else in football has been fundamentally sound, error-free football. Belichick’s teams rarely shoot themselves in the foot and often avoid damaging penalties at inopportune times. Enter the 2018 Patriots who don’t follow any of the usual markers of the Belichick reign. Sunday’s game at Pittsburgh is the freshest and most glaring example of change in 2018. The officials were (admittedly) calling the game tighter than normal, leading to more penalties, yet the worst yellow flags for the Pats were self-inflicted and mostly pre-snap. The Pats had a total of 14 penalties costing them 106 yards, 5 were pre-snap (4 false starts and 1 delay of game). Give Pittsburgh fans credit, the stadium was rocking in the 4th quarter, but rarely do you see a Belichick coached team have 2 terrible false start penalties in a close game in the 4th quarter, even on the road. It’s all about mental focus.

One of the more telling stats about focus and discipline is the team’s 3-5 road record. Mentally fragile or weak teams let road environments get in their heads and force them off their game. Belichick prides himself in preparation, but this year the team seems wholly unprepared on the road (see false starts in yesterday’s 4th quarter and the Miami miracle – hell, the entire Miami game). When the going gets tough and the game gets tight on the road, the Pats seem to tighten-up and make the type of mistakes we expect to see from a Hue Jackson coached team.

On the offensive-side of the ball, the Pats have been wildly inconsistent. It comes down to the receivers. One of the most talked about stories this season has been the apparent rapid decline of Rob Gronkowski, whether because his body has been worn down over the years or because he is currently injured. He’s made a nice catch here and there, but mostly has been an invisible piece of the offense. Another piece for me appears to be effort from the other receivers. On paper, Edelman is having a normal season by his standards, but the last few weeks he’s failed the eye-test at times with some critical dropped passes that he would normally catch. Josh Gordon gets a lot of attention for a big, spectacular catch here and there, but overall he has a catch percentage of 58.8%, which is not what you want to see out of one of your top receivers who has Brady as his QB. I think all three receivers are suffering from a lack of focus at times during games.

When analyzing the team, the QB needs to get some attention. Brady overall is having an fairly normal year by his standards, but has been picked off 9 times already, tied for the most in a season for him since 2013 with 2 games remaining. One major piece to consider is that Brady is being put in a position to force more throws this year because the defense can’t keep the opponent off the scoreboard. It doesn’t excuse all the mistakes, like the awful INT in Sunday’s Pittsburgh game (100% on Brady), but does account for the uptick of risk in his game.

The defense has also been horribly inconsistent this year. Holding the high-powered Steeler offense to 17 points on Sunday was one of their better performances of the year. The weapons in the passing game for Pittsburgh are legit, so allowing more rushing yards to limit the passing game is a smart game plan. Previous games have resulted in an unusually high amount of blown coverages and missed tackles leading to massive days for their opponents. Stopping the run, a Belichick (Patricia) staple, has been beyond a struggle in 2018. In 8 of their 14 games this season the Pats have allowed 100+ rushing yards, including 5 games allowing 150+ yards on the ground. For perspective, the Pats allowed 3 games with 150+ rushing yards in 2017, 1 in 2016, and 2 in 2015 (regular season only). In fact, you have to go back to 2013 for the last time the Pats gave up 5 or more games of 150+ rushing yards and there are still 2 games remaining in 2018.


Historically, Belichick-coached teams turn it on in the 2nd half of the season, peaking in December leading into the playoffs. We have come to expect early season sloppiness trusting that things turn around later in the season. So far in December 2018 the Pats are 1-2, with two crucial, ugly losses. These two losses you might expect in September, not in the stretch run when the playoffs and a bye are at stake. They moved from fighting for the #1 seed to hanging on to the #3.

The struggles are clear, but why? Did the Patriots not bring in enough talent to compete? Are players not performing up to expectation? Is the loss of Matt Patricia more important than previously thought? I think the answer is yes to all, at least in part. The Pats have talent on both sides of the ball, but it isn’t enough. Their defense is easy to exploit by opposing offenses and their offense is forced to come-from-behind and play well outside their comfort zone most weeks.  Now slipping to the #3 playoff spot forces the Pats to play on Wild Card weekend and likely go on the road for the Divisional round if they are lucky enough to get a win at all. 

There’s always a chance for a strong run in the postseason with Brady and Belichick, we’re conditioned to always believe, but at this point, a deep run in 2018 would take a true miracle.

The Ryan Fitzpatrick Jets Disaster

Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports

Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports

After 9 weeks of the NFL season, the AFC East is firmly in the control of the New England Patriots (7-1). They are 3 games up on the Miami Dolphins (4-4), Buffalo Bills (4-4) and 4 games up on the sad and pathetic New York Jets (3-6). The Jets were obviously hoping for better when they signed QB Ryan Fitzpatrick to a 1-year $12 million contract after a long and ugly stalemate this offseason. The Jets felt Fitzpatrick was the right person to lead this team to a solid season, but boy were they wrong. In typical fashion for the Jets, the Fitzpatrick signing is an absolute disaster in almost every way possible.

Through 9 games, 8 started, Fitzpatrick is ranked at or near the bottom in almost every statistical category. He has 8 TD passes compared to a whopping 13 interceptions (most in the NFL), including a historically bad 6 interception game against the Kansas City Chiefs in week 3. For perspective, he had 15 interceptions in 16 games last season and 8 in 12 games the year before. Fitzpatrick has the worst passing percentage of any qualified QB in the league (56.5%) and has just 220 yards/game (28th in the league). A sound $12 million investment?

From a Jets perspective, they can hang their hat on only offering Harvard educated Fitzpatrick a 1-year deal. They aren’t locked up long term with the worst QB in football and can move on next year. The only issue with that logic? Who’s their next QB? It’s certainly not going to be Geno Smith if they want to win football games.

I love watching the Jets disaster. They are just good enough to not get a top pick in the NFL draft, but bad enough to not contend in any real way. A rebuild takes a lot longer if you don’t sink like a rock and get a top player in the draft. Jets futility could become the norm over the next few years, so get used to it.

Huge Patriots W in Jimmy Garoppolo’s Debut

David Kadlubowski/AZ Central Sports

David Kadlubowski/AZ Central Sports

Going into Sunday night’s season opener for the New England Patriots my mind was racing with excitement and preparing for disappointment. Football season is here, but the Cards (get it?) were certainly stacked against the Pats in week 1. We all know the situation: the Pats are without Tom Brady until week 5, so this is Jimmy Garoppolo‘s team. Frankly though, that was the least of my concerns entering Sunday. The inactive status of offensive lineman Nate Soldier and TE Rob Gronkowski finally pushed me to expect a sizable loss to the Arizona Cardinals. You can’t expect a young QB making his first start to be successful without a very important veteran offensive lineman and arguably the best pass catching target in the league (forget all the other suspensions and injuries), right?

Overall, this was a massive W for the New England Patriots. This has the potential to be a very special team when everyone is healthy/no longer suspended. To win on the road against one of the best teams in football week 1 without countless important players is a testament to Bill Belichick and the heart of this team. I was excited for football before Sunday night, but after that performance (and a little help from the football gods) I’m pumped for the remaining 15+ games.

Performance Rating 

Every week I’ll pull out a few individuals and rate their performance.

Jimmy Garoppolo – A

In his first NFL start he went 24-33 with 264 yards and 1 TD. It wasn’t perfect and there were moments that scared me a little, but how can you fault Jimmy G for that performance overall. He set the bar high, now can he continue to shine?

LeGarrette Blount – B+

It wasn’t an amazing performance from Blount, but just what the Patriots needed. He carried the ball 22 times and racked up 70 yards and a TD. It was just enough to keep the defense honest and opened up the passing game a little for Jimmy G. Solid performance from the big man.

Julian Edelman – B

After being involved in almost every play in the first half, Edelman disappeared a bit for stretches of the game. Overall, 3 rushes for 16 yards and 7 catches for 66 yards clearly showed his chemistry with Jimmy G early, which allowed the offense to settle in and just play football.

Devin McCourty – A-

Leading the team with 8 solo tackles and 1 assisted, McCourty made is presence felt on defense. All of last season he had just 1 game with 9 tackles, making his opening night performance even more impressive. He looked like the stable veteran in the secondary and is continuing to develop into a great safety.

Chris Jones – B+

In his Patriots debut, Jones got his first sack and 3 tackles. He frequently got pressure on QB Carson Palmer and looked like a force on the defensive line. The new #95 fit in nicely week 1.

Next up

Home Opener

Patriots vs. Dolphins – 1:00pm, Sunday, Sept. 18th at Gillette Stadium