Brady Finally Steps Up at Home

It's a very simple formula for the Patriots. With no running game, a vanilla offense and injuries, New England's chances of maintaining their one game lead for home field advantage over Kansas City rests solely on the right arm of Tom Brady.

After being openly critical of Brady last week for only throwing one touchdown at home this season, the Patriots quarterback doubled his total with two scoring strikes on Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Brady aided by the insertion of wide receiver Troy Brown, who had been injured, had a lot to do with the success of the passing offense and the increase in touchdown production at home.

Brady connected on scoring strikes to Daniel Graham and Brown. This was a sloppy game to say the least mostly due to weather conditions. But the Patriots made more plays in the slush than the Jaguars and that's why they won this game. Actually the Jaguars dropped two sure touchdown passes and if they were executed, the outcome might have been different.

But the problem with the Patriots offense continues to be their running game. Antowain Smith and Kevin Faulk each ran for 39 and 34 yards respectively. Without Brady's two touchdown passes, the outcome would have been different. Brady executed a simple offensive scheme and took advantage of a Jaguars defense that was forced to work with a short field in the fourth quarter.

The bottom line is the fact Brady stepped up when his team needed him. That has to continue this weekend against the Jets. The Patriots are set to take on their hated division rival. Last year the Jets knocked the Patriots from a playoff perch with a late season victory over New England. The Patriots and Brady want to seek revenge.

Now logic suggests that this game will be very difficult for the Patriots to win. After all they've won ten games in a row; they nearly went five games without giving up a touchdown. You'd think they had the advantage. But the Jets will be ready.

The Patriots have little to play for this season other than home field advantage. That's big but for a team like the Patriots who fear no opponent, it's not all that important. Don't get me wrong it can make a difference. But New England is so well coached. They execute perfect game plans and players step up when they are needed.

After a rash of injuries, a player defection and a boring offense, the Patriots are simply playing a brand of football that's designed to win games regardless of the personnel on the field.

The key has been Brady. He's been the one constant that's allowed the Patriots to win every close games. It's been well documented that he plays much better on the road but after Sunday's performance against the Jaguars at home, opponents have to worry about playing the Patriots in the playoffs.

Now I'm not sold nor saying the Patriots are a lock even with home field advantage to get to the Super Bowl. With no running game, it's not going to be easy. In fact it's nearly impossible.

The team the Patriots don't want to play in the playoffs is the Kansas City Chiefs. They already know they can beat the Colts. The Indy blueprint is pretty easy to dissect. But Kansas City can score a lot of points and they have an opportunistic defense. Though they have a poor run defense, that's not the Patriots strength and that could be their undoing as the Chiefs are very good against the pass.

Kansas City has the best offense in the NFL. The Patriots have the best defense. So something has to give in a showdown with the two premier teams in the AFC.

But New England, if they want to increase their chances by securing the top seed in the playoffs, needs to defeat the Jets Saturday night. The Patriots will have a good idea as to the importance of their game against New York; because the Chiefs play earlier in the day at Minnesota.

If Kansas City wins their game against the Vikings, New England must beat the Jets to maintain their lead as the AFC's top seed. If not, the Chiefs will have a one game lead and can clinch home field a week later with win over the Chicago Bears at home.

But if the Chiefs lose and the Patriots win, they would clinch home field. Neither Kansas City nor Indianapolis could catch them for the top seed.

The Jets game is big on Saturday and once again it will be Tom Brady who decides the December and January fate of the Patriots. The Jets are playing good football and have a lot at stake as they want to end the Patriots 10-game winning streak. They have the weapons to do it and anytime you play a divisional opponent on the road, a loss is a strong possibility.

But Brady will be playing on the road where he has been king this season. If he plays like he did on Sunday and the Patriots can mount any threat of a running game, they should win this game. If Brady struggles this week, that could have serious ramifications for the Patriots in the playoffs.

Though they've beaten some great teams on the road this season, this might be their toughest test of the season. With so much on the line, the Patriots will learn a lot about themselves win or lose on Saturday night.

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