It’s the most wonderful time of the year.
First of all, a heartfelt apology to those people who count on the Patriots previews to be provided 24-48 hours in advance, as I have spent the last two days in a chaotic whirlwind of Christmas shopping and preparations that pushed me to the brink of insanity and back. But, like fantasy sports, if it’s in before the game begins, it still technically counts.
The New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills will meet today for the 100th time in the history of the two franchises. These meetings haven’t exactly been full of Christmas cheer for Bills fans, as their team has come up short 12 straight times, and 17 of the last 19 match-ups since the turn of the millennium.
The frigid forecast for Sunday’s contest doesn’t look much better for Buffalo either, who at 5-8 and in last place in the AFC East, possess an anemic offense ranked 29th overall as well as the NFL’s worst run defense, surrendering over 170 yards per game. The Bills defense has done an above-average job statistically against the pass, but when players such as Thomas Jones, Chris Johnson, Pierre Thomas, Jamal Lewis and the indomitable Jamaal Charles are having monster games by themselves, there’s often no time or need to throw all that much. Thomas Jones and Chris Johnson have so many yards from scrimmage against the Bills this season that they are almost single-handedly responsible for sinking thousands of fantasy teams from contention across the nation.
The Patriots, meanwhile, come into Buffalo with a badly-needed win over the Carolina Panthers under their belts. Although those of us in Patriot Nation have stepped down off the ledge, we’re still being driven unspeakably crazy by our enigmatic superstar wide receiver. To those of you blaming Randy Moss for the Patriots troubles this season: STOP IT!
Why is it New England sports fans are constantly looking to hunt down and crucify the Manny Ramirez and Randy Moss-type athletes in the world? Why can’t we appreciate the talent these guys bring to the table without demanding they all throw helmet-tossing fits of unbridled rage every time a play doesn’t go their way? It’s simply unbelievable. Three quick Moss-related points before we continue:
1. The Interception: NOT HIS FAULT. After the initial shock and anger associated with Carolina picking off Brady’s pass last Sunday, I sat in my Brookstone massage chair with my jaw hanging open while the announcers callously blamed Randy Moss, and only Randy Moss, for what had happened. Apparently, because Randy Moss didn’t “explode” into his route, Carolina was able to intercept the pass Brady threw to where Moss SHOULD have been. Riiiight.
And we’re supposed to believe that if this same play had happened on an attempted pass in Wes Welker’s direction, we’d hear the same analysis? Right! In fact, I truly believe you’d be hard-pressed to find a quarterback/receiver combination in the entire NFL in which the receiver would receive every ounce of blame for an interception like this. No way Brady overthrew Moss by 12 feet directly at a defensive back. There’s just no way. Gotta be the lazy guy’s fault.
2. The Fumble: Okay, now I’m not going to sit here and say Randy Moss fumbled on Sunday because he was being lazy or he wasn’t trying hard enough. Nor will I tell you, like our friend Merrill Hodge, that he coughed up the ball because he was “trying too hard.” However, I will tell you that this play, which was amplified almost ridiculously because of the critical eye currently fixated on Moss, doesn’t happen often. Moss has lost exactly one fumble all season despite his gangly frame and 69 receptions on the year. We need to relax people.
3. The Panthers D-Backs’ criticisms. This may be the most serious indictment of all against Randy Moss this season. Football commentators of all shapes, sizes and flavors can talk to no end all they want about Moss’s effort, or lack thereof. But when other players start to criticize his play, people really take note. I would be inclined to, if not for the incessant trash-talking that occurs in the NFL every single day.
Since when did cornerbacks earn the credibility to dissect the efforts of other players, and have people take them seriously? Don’t all defensive backs by definition have incredibly loud mouths and bad attitudes? Really? This is where we’re getting our “reliable” information now? I cannot wait for Tom Brady to target Moss 27 times on Sunday. What in the world will these people talk about then?
Before my predictions, I’d like to ask for just one thing for Christmas. Will the fans in New Orleans responsible for the “Who Dat,” “Who Dey,” and “Who Dem” signs please cease and desist? I honestly thought the first time I saw the horrible “D-(insert construction paper fence shape here)” signs that fans had sunk to a new, moronic low in sign-making, but this is just awful. Nothing like the broadcast companies constantly putting ebonics-laced signs on TV to show the intellectual side of the Saints fan-base. Now that my blog to Santa is out of the way, on to the predictions.
Tom Brady: 39/47, 333 yards, 1 TD
Randy Moss: 16 catches, 167 yards, 1 TD
Wes Welker: 13 catches, 101 yards
Laurence Maroney: 18 rushes, 99 yards, 3 TD
Ryan Fitzpatrick: 23/40, 157 yards, 3 Int
Marshawn Lynch: 22 rushes, 100 yards, 1 TD
Fred Jackson: 14 rushes, 58 yards
Bills Defensive Backs: Will have nothing to say after the Patriots (the most pass-happy team in the history of cold-weather and snow games) tear holes in the Buffalo secondary all day long. This one will be fun to watch. And, anyone who doubts whether Tom Brady will stand behind his receivers and attempt to make them look good amidst a plethora of bad press, get ready: Randy’s going to be back with a violent flourish this week. Guaranteed.