Patriots

NFL strength of schedule, playoffs, and the Patriots

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NFL strength of schedule, playoffs, and the Patriots

Adam Rank, writer for NFL.com, compiled a "Pick 6" of preseason predictions for your Wednesday evening.

Coming in at No. 6

"The New England Patriots will make the playoffs."

A team that's made the playoffs nine of the last 11 seasons? Explain yourself.

Rank does.

"So this might not seem like a bold prediction on the surface, but consider that the New England Patriots missed the playoffs the last time they lost to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl. The Patriots also have the easiest schedule in the league. The team with the easiest schedule has missed the playoffs in five consecutive seasons -- that streak ends here."

Hmm. Point taken.

But it should be noted Tom Brady missed that playoffs-less 2008 season because of an ACL tear. Also, the Patriots had an 11-5 record identical to the AFC East champion Miami Dolphins, but finished second in the division because of conference standing. Same with Baltimore getting the AFC's 6-seed.

And consider this:

Numbersneverdie.com did a little look-see into NFL strength of schedule -- from the 2008 through 2011 seasons -- and unearthed some interesting results. Based on teams with the top 10 hardest schedules and top 10 easiest schedules (including all teams tied at the 10th spot)...

Fifteen out of 43 teams (35) with the most difficult schedules made the playoffs and 18 of 44 teams (41) with the easiest SOS went to the postseason.

A Super Bowl winner emerged from the group with most difficult SOS two out of the four years examined. One winner and one loser came from the group with easiest SOS.

So what's the bottom line? I can't say it any better than the study's author.

"...the preseason strength of schedule didnt mean much."

There's another "streak" working against the Patriots in 2012: No team has lost a Super Bowl and returned the next season to win the NFL championship since 1973's Miami Dolphins. That's a 39-year drought (math!).

Conversely, teams have lost the Super Bowl and returned the following year to lose the NFL championship a bunch of times (looking at you, 1990s Buffalo Bills).

So it appears Rank's preseason prediction is likely safe. Carry on with your day.

Patriots cut ties with Cassius Marsh, sign Eric Lee to help front-seven

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Patriots cut ties with Cassius Marsh, sign Eric Lee to help front-seven

Cassius Marsh was brought to New England to help a depleted defensive end group and play in the kicking game. The Patriots wanted him badly enough that they parted with two draft picks -- a fifth and a seventh -- to acquire him in a trade with the Seahawks just before the start of the season. 

Less than three months later, they've decided to part ways with the 6-foot-4, 245-pounder. 

Marsh played in nine games for the Patriots this season, providing the team with an edge defender and someone with special-teams experience. He blocked a kick in Week 7 against the Falcons that earned him an enthusiastic attaboy from coach Bill Belichick. 

Coming off the edge, Marsh recorded one sack and 13 hurries. Against the run, he was used more sparingly, and he was one of the Patriots on the scene for Marshawn Lynch's 25-yard run in the second quarter on Sunday. He played in just two snaps in Mexico City after missing the previous week's game in Denver due to a shoulder injury. 

Without Marsh the Patriots remain thin at defensive end. In order to help bolster that spot, the corresponding move the Patriots made to fill the open spot on their 53-man roster was to sign defensive lineman Eric Lee off of the Bills practice squad. 

Lee entered the league with the Texans last season as an undrafted rookie out of South Florida. Listed at 6-foot-3, 260 pounds, Lee has bounced on and off of the Bills practice squad this season since being released by the Texans before this season.

The Patriots got a good look at Lee during joint practices last summer with the Texans at The Greenbrier in West Virginia. In the preseason game with the Texans that week, Lee played 40 snaps and according to Pro Football Focus he had two quarterback hurries. The Patriots have a history of snagging players they've practiced against, and with Lee, that trend continues

Belichick takes some heat for 'earthquake' comment

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Belichick takes some heat for 'earthquake' comment

Bill Belichick sounded less than enthused about traveling to Mexico to play a game. And his line about being "fortunate there was no volcano eruptions, earthquakes or anything else while we were down there," didn't exactly sit well with some folks south of the border.

MORE PATRIOTS:

“Personally, I wouldn’t be in any big rush to do it again,” Belichick said on his weekly appearance on WEEI's "Dale and Holley with Keefe" show Monday. “Players did a great job dealing with all the challenges that we had to deal with. I think we’re fortunate there was no volcano eruptions, earthquakes or anything else while we were down there. I mean you have two NFL franchises in an area that I don’t know how stable the geological plates that were below us [were], but nothing happened so that was good.”

Pancho Vera of ESPN Mexico took exception to Belichick's comment on Twitter, which, translated, called out the "ignorance of the genius of the NFL." More than 200 people were killed after a quake centered near Mexico City struck in September. 

Other Twitter users said, using Belichick's reasoning, they wondered if they'd be fortunate not to be killed or wounded in a mass shooting if they were to travel to the US:

Translated, the tweets read "I also have luck in Las Vegas I was not in a shooting" and "But you are right, I apply the same when I go to the U.S. and say I was fortunate I was not in some crazy shootout."