As we noted in the first installment of this column last weekend, there are a lot of things that keep me awake at night, when it comes to analyzing the New England Patriots, the NFL and the 2012 season.
Here are just a few for this week, coming on the heels of the Patriots 52-28 win over the New York Jets on Sunday:
THE BALTIMORE RAVENS: The 2011 AFC title game saw New England eek-out a 23-20 victory after Ravens PK Billy Cundiff missed a FG that could’ve tied the game, you surely remember. That might sound familiar to Patriots fans who watched Steven Gostkowski miss a routine 42-yard FG which put the Patriots on the short end of a 20-18 loss to the Arizona Cardinals in week two of the NFL season.
After the NFL Network game of the week required a short turn-around for the Ravens to host the Thursday night game against the Cleveland Browns, the Ravens played “just good enough” to record a 23-16 victory. Baltimore QB Joe Flacco threw 28-for-46 and 356 yards while throwing for a TD and running for another, cementing his place among the upper echelon of current NFL quarterbacks just as running back Ray Rice stakes his claim as the single best back in the league. The Ravens’ receiving corps is now led by WR Anquan Bolden and a star-in-the-making in WR Torrey Smith – who had his breakout game of the season the same night his younger brother was killed in a motorcycle accident.
The Baltimore defense ranks 10th in the league in points allowed but is first in interception returns for TDs. The Ravens and Houston Texans have emerged as the class of the American Football Conference and both teams are improving each week.
STEVEN GOSTKOWSKI: Although the Patriots scored 45 second-half points to annihilate the Buffalo Bills today, the first half included four drives which concluded in alternating results between fumbles and Gostowski missed FGs of 49 and 42 yards. When the Pats ran to the locker at halftime – Gostkowski had missed his last three FG attempts, admittedly all 40+ yards but all make-able in the grand scheme of playoff contention-level NFL playoff teams.
While there is absolutely no reason to hit the panic button over three early season missed FGs, and Gostkowski has hit two FGs from 50+ yards, the missed FG vs. Arizona which cost New England an important game casts doubt on his abilities, his confidence and Coach Bill Belichick’s confidence in him.
THE IRRELEVANCE of the NEW YORK JETS: Things are only right in the sporting universe when there are healthy rivalries in the NFL’s AFC East division. Seemingly, with the New York Jets unable to manage a single point against the San Francisco 49ers Sunday, the long-term prognosis for the J-E-T-S is BAD, BAD, BAD.
New York was able to gain key divisional victories over Buffalo (48-28 in Week 1) and over Miami (23-20 in Week 4), but losses to Pittsburgh and the 49ers are more of a true barometer for how low the Jets have fallen.
The unintentional comedy meter went off when New York’s arrogant head coach, Rex Ryan, had the audacity to state that he’d leave star defensive back Darrelle Revis on the active list to allow for the possibility to utilize him should the J-E-T-S make it to the Super Bowl. After the entire NFL industry had a Phyllis Diller belly laugh, the bitter truth became apparent as the Jets’ defense looked listless and their offense failed to register a single point.
Ryan, a master manipulator and royal buster of asses of players, media and everyone he interacts with, tipped his hand back when the Jets starred in the HBO blockbuster “Hard Knocks” back in 2010. In that series, it became quite apparent that Revis was the heart, soul, backbone and talent behind a tough, cohesive NYJ defense. With Revis, the Jet head coach seemed confident in his all-important defensive unit, without Revis (who was holding out during the 2010 preseason) the Jets were mere mortals.
The goose egg laid today against the 49ers is sure to ignite the long-awaited quarterback controversy between incumbent Mark Sanchez and the ever-popular Tim Tebow, acquired in the offseason as a back-up.
Let the tabloid wars begin.
Terry Lyons pens a twice-a-week column on the NFL for Foxboro Blog, including a weekly look at “what keeps us up at night” as NFL fans. You can follow him on Twitter @DigSportsDesk
Lyons is publisher and editor-in-chief at Boston-based DigitalSportsDeskhttp://www.digitalsportsdesk.com where he writes on football, basketball, baseball and hockey.