We asked our crew what they thought of the teams headed into the postseason and for their thoughts on the 2010 New England Patriots. Here's what they had to say about four Hot Topics.
Although I did pick the Patriots to win the AFC East, I was expecting an 11-5 season. So they clearly exceeded my expectations. No way did I think they'd have the number one seed in the AFC.
I predicted the Patriots to go 9-7 and miss the playoffs. I was obviously way off, and I think most people out there never expected them to go 14-2 in the regular season. I am not sure though that if they don't win the Super Bowl if the season is considered a success. I think it is. The reason they did better than I expected is because the young players stepped up faster than I expected, and Tom Brady had a career year. We will see the fans reaction though if they don't win the Super Bowl.
I believe my preseason prediction had me with the Patriots cementing a 12-4 season and a bearth in the playoffs. I predicted a division win, but my main concern was the new faces in Foxboro. I thought four was the limit which they would lose. At 14-2, they did better than IN predicted.
2) Who is the most valuable player on the Patirots aside from Tom Brady?
The second most valuable player on this team is Devin McCourty and it isn't even close. He has been the difference-maker all year long, finally providing a top-notch corner that consistently makes plays and makes a QB think twice before throwing to his side of the field.
I would have to say the non Brady MVP has got to be Benjarvus Green-Ellis. I might have picked him even if Brady was a choice. Here is a guy that goes undrafted, and is the third string running back heading into the season. Not only does he become the feature back, but he rushes for just over 1,000 yards and had NO fumbles. The no fumbles part is really remarkable. I am not sure if Green Ellis is their running back of the future, but it might change their draft plans a bit.
Vince Wilfork. He assumed more of a leadership role this season. Played more than NT this season and help keep the defense together while they were growing.
Without Brady in the mix, I have to give the nod to Devin McCourty. Normally I would give it to Jerod Mayo or Vince Wilfork, but McCourty singlehandedly stopped the bleeding in the New England secondary. With the loss of Leigh Bodden, and the struggles of Darius Butler, the secondary needed someone to step up. That someone was McCourty.
3) Most dangerous team in the Playoffs (AFC)?
The most dangerous in the AFC playoffs is the team that scores over 32 points a game. The Patriots have done it on offense, defense, and special teams all year. That won't change in January.
I don't want to sound like a homer, but the Patriots are the most dangerous team in the AFC. They have beaten six current playoff teams. What other playoff team has that record this season against quality opponents? If I have to pick another team other than the Patriots, I still will go with the Colts, because of the Manning-effect.
Baltimore. I have been touting the Ravens since before the season started, and I am not going to back off now. I think the Ravens MIGHT have the Patriots number a bit, after their playoff win last year and two near regular season wins in Gillette Stadium over the past two years. I think they match up with New England well, and their running game is getting hot, something the Patriots defense struggles with a bit. The Ravens also have no fear playing on the road.
The Patriots. The have the best record in the NFL, have beaten the best teams in the AFC and most of all the road to the Super Bowl goes through Foxboro where the Patriots almost never lose. If I'm picking a non Patriot team I'd say the Steelers.
If I were to say the Patriots, it might sound like I was a bit of a homer. But that's the reality. If you're talking about teams who can knock off the Patriots, I think it's Baltimore. Though I believe Baltimore is overrated, they managed to blow out New England at home last year, and until proven otherwise, that same capability remains. For the record, I also believe New York and Indy are also overrated. The Chiefs, when they're firing on all cylinders, are the only team I'm seriously concerned about.
4) Who do you expect to see in the Super Bowl?
The New England Patriots vs. The New Orleans Saints! Brady vs. Brees! I think I'd like to see the match-up!
I am picking Baltimore and New Orleans, with the Ravens winning the Super Bowl. As I said in question three, I have been touting the Ravens all year, and with a 12-4 regular season record I am still confident with my choice. I also picked New Orleans at the beginning of the year, and though they aren't the favorite in the NFC, they are the defending champs until further notice. I think they have enough to get through the NFC and advance to the Super Bowl.
Patriots vs. Packers
I predicted the Colts and the Vikings before. I had the Saints, Packers also in teh mix, causing my some consternation as to the NFC titalist. With Minnesota a distant memory as a playoff contender, I'd say it's Green Bay over New Orleans. I like the Saints' big play potential, but I'm not so sure they're robust enough. In the AFC, I think the Colts are now running on fumes, and the same can be said with the Jets or Chiefs. Only the Steelers concern me at this point, but I believe it's a New England - Green Bay showdown... again.