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  Tuesday, September 30, 2014
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xtra xtra!
In Good Shape at the Halfway Point
By Paul Noonan

     It’s nothing new for the Patriots to quietly succeed, after all they’ve been doing it for the last half a decade.  Everyone gives the Pats their due credit and nobody ever brushes them off, but in the media the Patriots are still that middle child.  While the media has been lauding the Bears, talking too much about Terrell Owens and Chad Johnson, marveling at the early success of the Saints, etc., the Patriots have again quietly added more numbers to the W column.  Halfway through the season, the Pats are doing fine, and they’ll be looking to make noise, as usual, come the cold winter months.

             

     The only worrisome part of the Patriots preseason is that as it stands today, the Patriots have not beaten a team with better than a .500 record.  It is one of those facts that is both a positive and a negative.  On the plus side at least the Pats are winning the games they should be winning, but on the other hand they need to prove they can beat some of the big boys as well.  They played well against Denver and Indianapolis, but the losses obviously leave something to be desired.  What makes the Pats’ situation tougher to understand is that there are no glaring weaknesses.  Sure, the offense has lost a few key figures like David Givens, Deion Branch and David Patten, but guys like Chad Jackson, Ben Watson and Doug Gabriel have eased the sting.  The defense is still one of the better units in the NFL.  While Stephen Gostkowski may not be as reliable as Vinatieri was he gets the job done.  Hopefully, the Pats just picked the wrong two weeks to have their bad games.  Or maybe even they just didn’t pull out all their cards against Indy and Denver. 

             

     Although the losses to Indy and Denver were tough to swallow the important part is that the Patriots are 6-2 at the midway point of the season, and have a favorable schedule down the stretch which should give them yet another AFC East title.  The only major test remaining for the Patriots is their battle with the big bad Chicago Bears.  The consensus favorite to win the NFC, the Bears match- up should give the Patriots and the fans a good idea of whether the Pats will be contenders or pretenders.  Aside from that game, matches against the Lions, Packers and Texans should help the Patriots secure a playoff spot.  While the Patriots may not get a lot of love from the media, no one would likely argue they are not a threat come winter.  The good news is that the Patriots have seen three of the teams that they would likely see in the postseason.  They proved they can handle the Bengals, and even though they lost to them, they proved they can play with Indy and Denver.  The Patriots will likely fly under the radar into the postseason again, but should they get there you can be sure teams will take notice.       



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