Yes, the day is finally here! Football is back and we can spend all day watching the appetizer games until the Pats kickoff against the Cardinals tonight.
Some notes and thoughts to pass along as we start pregaming for our pregame.
— Had been wondering about whatever uniforms the Patriots will be wearing for their Thursday night “color rush” game against the Texans next week. The Patriots were one of the only teams to resist the “fly collar” when the league switched to Nike uniforms in 2012, and I expect they’re probably resistant to anything too silly or fancy for this latest NFL marketing ploy. But still, as someone who loves uniforms/helmets/facemasks I can’t help but be a little excited to see a new Pats jersey. They haven’t worn their Pat Patriot red throwbacks since 2012 due to some stupid helmet issue. Apparently they can’t afford a second set of helmets? But hopefully these expected red uniforms that Mike Reiss wrote will be announced on Tuesday will satiate our need for some throwback Patriots.
— Lotta miserable Pats fans already chalking up a loss tonight. I’m not convinced simply because of the Patriots’ defense. The Cardinals aren’t unbeatable at home and if you happened to see the Amazon special All or Nothingabout their season, they were extremely hot and cold at times last year. They lost to the Rams at home early last season. The Patriots have the pass rushers to get after Carson Palmer. That is the key. If Hightower, Sheard, Long, Johnson and maybe Mingo are unleashed tonight, things are going to be interesting no matter how Garoppolo moves the offense.
— This is Belichick with a defense in its prime, with a ton of moveable parts, going against a quarterback who’s been known to struggle against good teams, and could perhaps be fast approaching the end of the line. The Cardinals offense did NOTHING this preseason.
— The Patriots are almost never blown out, but that’s been with Brady and often Gronk. So I get that we’re in new territory here, but the fact remains that New England is one of the best-coached and most disciplined teams in NFL history. The coaches will have a gameplan working around the guys who are out and one that should give the team a chance to win.
— Season openers are always fluky games. Both teams have surprises waiting. Tackling and ball security is often sloppy. That means the better team doesn’t always win early in the season. And let’s not forget the total meltdown the Cardinals had in Carolina in last year’s NFC Championship. Not saying they turn in a stinker like that again, but this Cardinals team has to prove that their aging stars haven’t fully fallen off the cliff.
— Pats continue to make small contract moves, locking up Ninkovich for another season. Good signing. Crazy how many deals Ninkovich has made with the Pats.
Source: #Patriots have signed DE Rob Ninkovich to a 1-year extension thru 2017. Now playing on a 2-yr, $4.27m deal
— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) September 11, 2016
— But if we don’t re-sign Hightower and Collins I’m going to be sick.
— What will give me real concern is if LeGarrette Blount is picking up little-to-negative yardage on first down carries. That is a recipe for disaster. Keep Jimmy out of third-and-longs at all costs.
— This was a different defense without Tyrann Mathieu last season. Yes he’s back, but we’ve seen how guys coming off ACLs aren’t the same player immediately. His job is easier without Gronk in the mix, but let’s see how effective he is right out of the gate.
— Games that I’ll be keeping an eye on today: Bengals at Jets, Bills @ Ravens, Packers @ Jaguars.
— The Broncos magical run has apparently spilled over into 2016. Who needs a quarterback? Not the Broncos apparently. They certainly have a talented defense but I don’t get how games just always seem to spin into their favor in the fourth quarter in close games. Every call, every bounce, everything seems to suddenly go their way almost like it used to for the Patriots during their 21-game win streak from 2003-2004. I am trying to embrace them in the role of my NFL villain, but I just don’t understand how they continue to have a horseshoe up their ass.
— Even without Gronk I’d expect plenty of heavy offensive sets tonight. All three tackles, Bennett and Harbor/Derby and a large dose of James Develin as well. There’s certainly a path to victory with the ground and pound if we can get it going (which we couldn’t last year).
— This game feels a lot like 2008 Week 2, when the Pats had to march into New York to face Brett Favre and the Jets with Matt Cassel in his first start. It seemed like now or never for the Jets then, but the Pats still came up with a 19-10 win. They key that day was of course, no turnovers by the offense.
— No matter what happens tonight, it’s one game and the season opener at that. You can never judge a season outlook from this one game. The Pats have had plenty of close battles in the season-opener with teams that went on to be terrible. The Pats have also looked nearly-terrible in many of those games themselves. So take all the hot taeks that are surely coming this week with a grain of salt. Good or bad. It’s a long road and that’s what makes it interesting.