Patriots versus Dolphins

@ New England -7.5 over Miami

The Patriots are like that bad guy in the horror movie. They lie motionless and seemingly dead in the background, while the relieved heroic survivors share a sobbing embrace, all the while the movie theatre audience screams “Cut his fucking head off! He’s not fucking dead!! He’s right behind you! He’s getting up!!! The head! Cut off his fucking head!!!” And that’s how I feel about the New England Patriots. They just won’t die, but for the first time in a long time they are looking wounded.

Yes they’ve had slow starts before, and yes people have been making this call for an awfully long time. But something seems a little different this go round. This season they have eked out a win versus a Texans team that might be truly awful, lost to a very good and inspired Jags team and then lost to a Lions team that isn’t scaring anyone. Not a strong start. This is probably the week the Pats pull themselves up off the ground and get their hands back on the axe. The 3-0 Dolphins are probably in for a rough time, but the Patriots effort and execution will be telling. If this is not a resounding win/statement game for New England, 2018 may be an actual turning point. But until the head is officially off, I’m not betting against the Pats ability to rise to the occasion, and cover.

IN DYNASTY TERMS

The Patriots, as they are wont to do, defied convention by rostering the bare minimum of wide receivers. Gronk plus a smorgasbord or wideouts and quasi-receiver running backs were to be enough for New England. Injury and mediocrity have reared their heads though, and now the Patriots seem to be groping for their go to personnel. Julian Edelman will return, and Gronk will certainly improve, but that might not be enough. The absence of underrated 2017 stalwarts Dion Lewis and Brandin Cooks are now being felt.

The frugal Patriots opted not to pay those monster contributors, and decided instead to draft Sony Michel and have since had Josh Gordon gifted to them. If the aforementioned monster is to awaken from his seemingly premature death, Gordon and Michel will have to play significant roles.

Gordon is a strange situation. He’s a long absent, once super talented wideout going to a team that has a long history of failed wide receiver acquisitions (Ocho Cinco, Kenny Britt, every draft pick at the position ever) along with several amazing pick-ups: Moss, Welker, Amendola. There are understandably mixed feelings about Gordon along with some real questions about whether New England is a spot he can succeed.

I suspect Gordon will be slow to pick up the Pats offense, having arrived late to the party and not being familiar with the nuances of the Pats offense or having any chemistry with Brady. Recall how Sammy Watkins late arrival to the Rams played out last season. If Gordon doesn’t impress early I’d imagine that many impatient owners will be quick to part ways with him. The “I told you so” crowd will not be shy and they will certainly shake the confidence of some Gordon holders. And this will be the opportunity.

The Patriots, as noted above, get stronger as the season goes on. They adjust and re-adjust and save their best players for when it matters most. Down the stretch last season one of the key components to New England’s success was Dion Lewis, a player who was used sparingly in the early going to preserve the oft injured back’s health. While not saving Gordon from injury, Belichick and McDaniels will take their time with Gordon, readying him for the late season kill shot. It’s hardly a certainty, but given how ill-equipped this team currently appears, Gordon could be a late season necessity for a team with win-now intentions. With this in mind, if and when this next period of 3 – 5-week period brings a likely Gordon dip, we should all be aggressive buyers.

Also, buy Sony Michel, because he will have to matter as well.

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