Curran: Doubt planted that NFL playoff seeding matters

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Curran: Doubt planted that NFL playoff seeding matters

It's going to be hard for the Patriots to duck the Wild Card round.

Despite having lost their four games in 2012 by a total of 11 points and beating the two teams ahead of them in the AFC playoff race, the Patriots are likely bound for a home game at Gillette on the weekend of January 5 and 6.

If form holds, the Patriots will head to Denver for a rematch with the Broncos and Peyton Manning.

Blame the NFC West. The Patriots went 1-3 against the once-hapless division, their only win coming against the St. Louis Rams in London.

So how screwed are the Patriots if they have to win four playoff games to bring home a fourth Lombardi?

Using history as a reference point, not totally screwed.

The Giants were the No. 4 seed in the NFC in 2011 with a 9-7 record and they hammered Atlanta, outplayed Green Bay, lucked out against San Francisco and weathered the Patriots to win the Super Bowl.

In 2010, the No. 6 Packers won at Philly, at Atlanta and at Chicago before knocking off the AFC's No. 2 Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl.

The Saints and Colts were both No. 1 seeds in 2009 and made it to the Super Bowl where New Orleans won when Manning threw it to the wrong team in the waning moments of a would-be game-winning drive.

The Cardinals were the fourth-seed and the Steelers were a two-seed in 2008 when they had their epic bout in Tampa.

And the top-seeded Patriots lost to the fifth-seeded Giants in the Super Bowl in 2007.

Extra games increases the likelihood of injury to key players. Road games bring on crowd noise, adversity presented by travel and any number of comfort factors on game day.

The mettle and mental toughness of a team is what's relevant. Can a team embrace the adversity it's been handed -- as the Giants have done in their runs -- or will it lament how it got itself in a spot where it's playing on the road?

These are the dynamics the Patriots will face in January. Would it be "easier" if they didn't face the specter of two road games against Houston and Denver? Probably. But the whole thing's supposed to be hard anyway. C'est la vie.

Curran: Can we swear off the stupid questions?

Curran: Can we swear off the stupid questions?

FOXBORO  -- To think there’d be no further questions about the Tom Brady-Jimmy Garoppolo dynamic when Brady’s four-game suspension ends would be moronic.

Bill Belichick won’t like them. He’s destined to give them the verbal Heisman. But there are aspects to the story which demand further interrogation.

So there’s those questions. And then there’s baiting for the sake of baiting, which is what happened Friday morning.

A reporter asked Belichick, “You said Tom will start when he’s eligible. Can you think of an occasion when you named a Week 5 starter in July?”

“Yeah, I don’t know,” Belichick said.

“What happens if Jimmy plays better?”

“Look, I told you what’s gonna happen,” Belichick answered.

Pressing on, the reporter began, “So there’s no, there’s, there’s . . . ”

At that point, with Belichick reacting like he’d come open a month-old-corpse and muttering, “Jesus Christ," the reporter cut himself off.

I’ve been trying to steer clear of the media ombudsman business. But this stuff makes it hard. The first question was obtuse in the extreme. I don’t even know how that gets formulated.
This is not a Brady-Bledsoe scenario.

You have the best quarterback of his generation who – 17 months ago – took down what was supposed to be one of the great defenses in NFL history in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl. A guy who got smashed all over the field in Denver at the age of 38 and still almost pulled out a win last January.

When that guy’s cleared to play, you sprint him onto the field regardless of the circumstances.

“If Jimmy plays better . . . ”? Better than what? Better than 11 touchdowns, no picks, 116-for-160 and 1,547 yards, which is what Brady did in the first four games last season? Better than Brady played in Denver while getting his head caved in every other play?

I understand that sometimes you have to ask the dumb question to get something on the record, but this was not that. This seemed like someone who really thought he was onto something. Was going to paint Belichick into an uncomfortable corner and hang him with his own words.

Sorry, counselor.

Now, you and I can sit on the front stoop and wonder what happens if Garoppolo plays ridiculously well then Brady comes back and spends four weeks playing like he’s never been on a field before and is clearly an impediment to the team’s success.

Won’t happen. But we can talk about it.

Asking Belichick if he’s gonna go with the hot hand when two days prior he told you what he was going to do is asking for a JC response.

Belichick probably figured that stating Brady was the Week 5 starter before he was asked was the best way to defuse idle speculation. “We’ll see . . . ” or “We always do what’s best for the football team . . . ” would have ignited a thousand hours of conversation about the budding quarterback controversy in New England.

Belichick now knows that the speculation and scenario spinning is coming anyway. JC may hear his name muttered a few more times from the podium between now and October.