HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns

November 12, 2007

Patriots’ success could be your downfall

By Jesse Menden

The New England Patriots’ win over Indianapolis cemented the fact that they are indeed the best team in the NFL right now. And the way they have been plowing through teams this season might eventually make them the best team of all time.

Just consider some of the stats they have put up through the first nine games of their undefeated season. They rank first in points, total yards, and passing yards. They rank eighth in rushing.

Quarterback Tom Brady leads the league in QB rating and passing yards. Randy Moss has been a benificiery of that and leads the league in receiving yards and touchdowns. As a whole, the team was fourth in rushing before their bye Sunday.

That sounds very similar to the Vikings in 1998, but there is one inconsistency. The difference between a great team and a special team is defense, and the Patriots actually have one. New England’s defense was ranked fourth in the league through nine weeks, thanks to names like Bob Sanders, Rodney Harrison, Adalius Thomas, and Richard Seymore, just to name a few.

OK, the 9-0 Patriots are good, so who cares? Actually a lot of people do. In today’s NFL, just cheering for your local team has become secondary. Now, so many have wagers on the games and play fantasy football that they would much rather see the team they manage win, rather than the team they grew up watching.

Instead of lamenting about the poor start to the season by our home-town team, it seems more important to analyze how the Patriots’ domination through the first half of the season will affect our bottom line.

Fantasy owners who have a Patriot or two on their team have been seeing dollar signs in their sleep as they anticipate a championship. It is by no coincidence that the leading team in my 12-team league has Tom Brady on it.

Brady’s success as the top fantasy quarterback has spilled over to teams with the likes of Moss, and even Wes Welker. I picked up Welker before Week 1 after he went undrafted, and now, he is the third-rated fantasy receiver.

Just how dominating have Patriots players been? Brady appears on over 83 percent of the top 500 teams on Yahoo! Fantasy Football. Moss appears on over 67 percent. Welker is right up there, too, at 28 percent.

But the extreme success of the mentioned players might eventually be a downfall for fantasy owners who have benefited from their points.

Considering the ease of the Patriots’ upcoming schedule and their lead in the division (the other three teams are a combined 5-20), New England will earn a playoff berth within a few weeks, and could have home-field advantage wrapped up in the middle of the fantasy playoffs.

All of this begs the question: how much will head coach Bill Belichick play his starters? And, if they have a shot at going 16-0, how hard will Belichick push to grab that mark?

At this point, there is no telling what will happen, but one thing is for sure, Belichick will do whatever he wants.

It is safe to say that if you have Brady, Moss, or Welker on your team, you most likely will wrap up a playoff berth within the next two weeks. As the trade deadline approaches, it might be a good idea to shop those players (and perhaps others like Dante Stallworth) because it is uncertain how much they will be playing towards the end of the regular season, when most fantasy teams are in the middle of their playoffs.

A trade will benefit both sides. A team on the fringe of the playoffs will most likely get a boost and some badly-needed victories. By trading away Brady, Moss, or Welker, you are selling high and will get some players that will for sure be playing and racking up points when your playoffs start.

It might not be an easy decision at this point, but being ahead of the game in this instance might lead to playoff victories in the future.

It’s just my opinion, but I’d much rather have the fate of my team resting on players who have something to play for, and not the scenario the Patriots, led by coach “I do whatever creates the most controversey” Belichick, could be in.