Patriots

Patriots always recover from 2-2 starts, but how much will they this season?

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Patriots always recover from 2-2 starts, but how much will they this season?

The Brady era Patriots start 2-2 nearly as often as they win the Super Bowl. They’ve actually won the Super Bowl in two seasons that featured 2-2 starts. So yeah, boom. Super Bowl champions. 

The unexpected lackluster results through four games, including a loss to the still-undefeated Chiefs and a defeat at the hands of the now 3-1 Panthers, is not unprecedented. The aforementioned .500 starts came in 2003, 2005, 2012 and 2014. 

With fewer people labeling the 2017 Patriots as sure-fire Super Bowl champions as they were in the offseason (my Monopoly money is still on them winning it all), the more immediate hope for Pats fans is that the team will simply improve. It should come as no surprise that those other 2-2 starts suggest they will. 

The most recent 2-2 start, 2014, saw the Pats allow 90 points over the first four games, including 33 points to the Dolphins in a season-opening loss and 41 points in the infamous Monday night drubbing against the Chiefs. They straightened things out in short order, as they allowed more than 23 points just twice the rest of the season as they won 10 of their final 12 games. 

In 2003, the Pats were outscored by a 77-71 mark over the first four weeks. Though they allowed 30 points to the Titans in a Week 5 win, they went on to allow just 161 points the rest of the season, including three shutouts and five games with six or fewer points allowed. That team, of course, ran the table from Week 5 on and won the Super Bowl. 

Those are the stories of the 2-2 teams that got their acts together quickly. The other two -- 2005 and 2012 -- didn’t. The 2005 Pats continued to lose every other game en route to a 4-4 start. The 2012 team started 3-3. 

It’s not difficult to see what the 2003 and 2014 teams had in common and what traits were shared between the 2005 and 2012 teams. The 2003 and 2014 Pats both had strong talent on defense and were working in a star free agent in the secondary (Rodney Harrison in 2003, Darrelle Revis in 2014). The 2005 and 2012 Pats had questions on defense that ultimately weren’t answered. 

Case in point: Here’s where the 2003 and 2014 Pats finished defensively compared to the 2005 and 2012 teams: 

2003: first in points allowed, seventh in yards allowed (finished 14-2, won Super Bowl)
2014: eighth in points allowed, 13th in yards allowed (finished 12-4, won Super Bowl)

2005: 17th in points allowed, 26th in yards allowed (finished 10-6, lost in divisional round)
2012: ninth in points allowed, 25h in yards allowed (finished 12-4, lost AFC championship)

So the question is whether this defense will follow the route of the 2003 and 2014 teams or the 2005 and 2012 ones. Their talent in the secondary suggests a finish like the 2014 group isn’t out of the question, but then again the 128 points they’ve allowed through four games is far and away the most of these 2-2 teams (20 more than the 2005 team, which allowed 108 points through four games; the 2003 team allowed 77 and the 2014 squad allowed 90). 

The good news is that even in the case of those lesser defenses, they greatly improved after their slow starts. The 2012 and 2005 teams both allowed much fewer points per game over the final 12 than over the first four, with the 2005 team allowing over a touchdown less (27 points allowed per game over the first four games, 19.16 points allowed per game over the final 12). 

So the Patriots have been here before, and they’ve improved after. The question is how much they will this season, and how soon. 

QUICK SLANTS THE PODCAST: Jerod Mayo breaks down the best way for Patriots to attack Jaguars defense

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QUICK SLANTS THE PODCAST: Jerod Mayo breaks down the best way for Patriots to attack Jaguars defense

Jerod Mayo talks with Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry about the Patriots AFC Championship matchup with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

(2:00) Jerod Mayo gives his X’s and O’s breakdown of the Jaguars defensive schemes and traits.

(5:00) Jerod gives his opinion on how the Patriots offense should attack the Jaguars defense.

(8:30) Could Gronkowski be the key to the Patriots offense? What would be the best way to use him?

(15:00) Does the Jaguars defense have a weakness against vertical routes?

(17:00) Jerod Mayo explains why James White could be a key once again for the Patriots. 

(21:00) Will Jaguars change their defensive scheme after allowing 42 to the Steeler?

(23:00) Will much will the Jaguars having the ‘nothing to lose’ mindset impact the game?

Jaguars have Ramsey's back

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Jaguars have Ramsey's back

Enough has been made of Jalen Ramsey’s bold proclamation that the Jaguars are going to win the Super Bowl despite the fact that they’re aren’t even on that stage yet.

I know it’s not how the Patriots do business but other teams do. Does it generally work? Well, no one can match the Pats sustainability but that doesn’t mean that style can’t be effective in shorter windows.

Look at the Seahawks or Ravens. Even the Giants could be boisterous. That leads me back to the Jags, who have Ramsey’s back.

“We’re so close that I think it’s OK to say, ‘Hey, we’re going to do this,’’’ said defensive tackle Malik Jackson.

“The man has confidence in his team,” added Abry Jones, also a defensive tackle. “What’s he going to say? He knows what we’re going up there to do. It’s not like he’s saying anything that’s not true.”

“He does things very passionately,” Calais Campbell told the Rich Eisen show. “You feed off that. When you see a guy who loves the game as much as he does, you can’t help but fall into the same mentality.”

That is what makes Ramsey different from say Mike Mitchell, the Steelers safety who ran his mouth weeks ago about beating the Patriots in the AFC title game and then stood outside the Jags locker room and yapped about what a long day the visitors were in forSunday. How’s that working out for Mitchell now? He’s at home while Ramsey is about to play in his biggest game as a pro.

“He’s going to talk, but he’s going to show up,” Yannick Ngakoue said. “I just don’t like people talking all week. You talk reckless, man, and you lose. It is what it is.”

That is not an indicator to the Jags that Ramsey is looking ahead.

“He’s just happy,” noted Ngakoue. “He understands we have a giant in front of us and he’s got to pay all of his attention to this team. We don’t even know who’s going to play in the Super Bowl…We understand we have to do what we have to do or we’ll be watching the Super Bowl at home like everybody else.”

Of course, Ngakoue, the gifted edge rusher on that fearsome front 4, had some pointed words to the Steelers after that 45-42 win Sunday saying “real people don’t say nothing. Real people are quiet but then throw the first punch…they thought they were bullies today. We were the bullies. See you next year.”

That’s not Ramsey’s modus operandi however. He got under A.J. Green’s skin so much that the normally peaceful Bengals wideout threw punches at the Jags corner during the game and reportedly wanted more after the game. Then - and now - Jacksonville seems okay with it so long as the All-Pro corner continues to deliver the goods.

“Everybody has their own persona,” said Leonard Fournette. “Whatever motivates them. We aren’t worried about two weeks ahead of us. We aren’t worried about the Super Bowl. It’s the next game. It’s Sunday in New England.”

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