By Michael Felger
A Felger Four to kick off 2011:
I know a lot of you disagree with me, but I think things broke in the Patriots favor on Sunday when the Chiefs were upset at home by Oakland and the Colts got by Tennessee later in the day.
In short, thanks to those results the Pats now wont have to face Peyton Manning until the AFC title game, should they both make it that far. As the No. 3 seed, the Colts are guaranteed of going to No. 2 seed Pittsburgh should they beat the Jets next weekend.
The Pats, on the other hand, will face the lowest remaining seed from Wild Card Weekend, which means either the Jets, Chiefs or Ravens. If New York wins at Indy on Saturday night, then the Pats get their hated division rivals. If the Colts win, then the Pats will await the winner of Chiefs-Ravens on Sunday.
Id take my chances with any of those teams over the Colts. And you can add the Steelers to that list, as well. I still believe the teams that matchup best against the Pats are the ones who throw to win. And thats the Colts. Thats Manning, who figured out Bill Belichick a long time ago.
Are any of you still willing to argue with me about Randy Moss and his value to the Patriots? Is there any more debate? The Pats are a better team without him. Tom Brady is a better quarterback without him. Period, story over. Fact. Not opinion.
Brady threw an interception in the third quarter of his first game without Moss against Baltimore in Week 6 . . . and he didnt throw another real pick the rest of the year (unless you an include an interception on a Hail Mary at the end of the Ravens game). Over the next 10 games, nine of which were wins, Brady threw 24 touchdowns and no interceptions. Over his final eight games he didnt have a quarterback rating under 107. He finished the year with the fifth-highest QB rating of all time, 111.0. He had 36 touchdowns on the year against four interceptions. Four. And he did it against the iron of the league. Baltimore. At Pittsburgh. The Jets. At Chicago. Brady and the Pats played six games against playoff teams after the Moss trade, and they won every one.
And just imagine. They were able to do all that without Moss running off the safety.
If theres another case of more people being more wrong on one topic than the overwhelming majority of fans and media were on Moss, then Id like to know what it is. Because as far as I can tell, it doesnt exist.
A few Pats quick-hitters from Sunday's win over Miami:
I wish Julien Edelman could do it when it counts. For all the progress made by so many young players on the roster this season, Edelman remains one of the disappointing ones. Or maybe we just overrate him every August and this is just what he is. A special teamer.
Those of you wondering where Taylor Price was all year, there you go. Seems like theres a little something there, right?
So Brandon Meriweather is a Pro Bowler and Rob Gronkowski isnt. Hmm. Maybe they need to step up the drug testing across the league.
For all the time we spent talking about the upgrade the Pats experienced in going with Deion Branch over Moss, we overlooked a similar swap that took place in the backfield. How about BenJarvus Green-Ellis for Laurence Maroney? When it comes to this Patriots team, give me the overachiever every time.
Finally, I understand Claude Julien is feeling some pressure. I understand these December and January games may mean a bit more to him than other coaches. A bad stretch and he could be toast. So hes riding a hot hand.
But does he need to risk destroying the confidence of a good, young goalie in the process?
Theres only two reasons I can think of to play 36-year old Tim Thomas in seven straight games in December of an 82-game season (including a stretch last week when he played back-to-back nights and then again two days later) when you have one of the leagues most promising young goalies on the bench. The first is what we mentioned above. Julien fears for his job so hes treating every two points like its life or death. So Thomas gets the call.
The other relates to the four-year, 20 million contract the general manager gave to the aforementioned 36-year-old. Its in Peter Chiarellis best interest to play Thomas as much as possible, too. The more Thomas plays and the better he does, the more Chiarelli can justify that unjustifiable contract to his new boss, Cam Neely.
Anyway, what happened to Rask the other night in Buffalo is ridiculous. Playing in his first game in 16 days, Rask let in one bad goal and was pulled after 20 minutes of action. A 4-3 Bruins lead turned into a 7-6 shootout defeat in front of Thomas, who hasnt exactly been standing on his head of late, either. The Bs lost the two points and they lost the opportunity to give Thomas a needed rest. Lets just hope they dont lose Rask as well.
Felger's season-ending Patriots report card will appear tomorrow. E-mail Felger HERE and read the mailbag on Thursday. Listen to him on the radio weekdays, 2-6 p.m., on 98.5 The Sports Hub.