Pats can restore the faith

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Pats can restore the faith

By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

So far this season, the Patriots have beaten an average NFL team at Gillette Stadium. They've lost to a very good team on the road. They've struggled with, but eventually beaten, a very bad team at Gillette.

Not exactly the greatest sample when you're trying to gauge the quality of an NFL contender. They won both games they should have won, they lost the one they should have lost, and over the course of those three games we didn't learn much.

Seriously, what do you know about the Patriots now that you didn't already know by the end of training camp?

That the defense has issues? That the secondary is undersized and often overmatched? That they struggle on the road? That unless Tom Brady plays out of his pigtails, there's a very good chance that they'll lose?

We already knew that stuff. The issues are nothing new.

What we still haven't learned, or what, at this point, we're still left to ponder, is whether those issues are something the Patriots can overcome. Because let's face it every team has issues. The question is whether, over time, a team can gel around those shortcomings; either improve them, or develop some kind of scheme that best masks them. OK, that's pretty obvious. But that's where we are with the Pats. We know the problems; we're just not sure if there's a solution.

Common sense says there's not. I mean, even in victory, there was something so fishy about the way the Pats played last Sunday. That was reinforced by how easily the Jets ran train on Buffalo yesterday afternoon. Throw in the fact that the Bengals lost to the Seneca Wallace-led Browns and the significance of both Patriot wins took a huge hit.

It's just looking more and more like it's not the Pats year. That doesn't mean they can't sneak into the playoffs, or have a couple games that leave us saying, "You know, these guys can be a pretty good team!" But at the same time, try and picture Devin McCourty and Kyle Arrington lined up across from Greg Jennings and Donald Driver four months from now in Dallas. Doesn't that feel wildly out of reach?

But it is early. We still can't be sure. As of right now, despite every instinct and ounce of logic in my brain, I'm not ready to count out the Pats. This team has significant strengths. They have weapons and playmakers and the football minds to find something that clicks. You'd be crazy to cash in all your faith. If you did, you wouldn't be a fan.

And that brings us to tonight.

A win over the Dolphins won't make the season regardless of how the game plays out, the Patriots problems will still exist but a win will mean that they CAN win; that they can go on the road, within the division, and find a way to defeat a solid defensive team, with a strong running game, quality quarterback and one of the biggest, most athletic and talented receivers in the game. With a win, we'll take a step back from the ledge, and take a longer, closer look at what we have in Foxboro.

Last week the Jets showed us that a good team can go into Miami and come out with a victory, and if the Pats can follow suit, we'll have no choice but to believe, or at the very least cautiously extend our faith. A win, especially heading into the bye week, would be bigger than Vince Wilfork's ass.

But as beneficial as a victory would be to the psyche of Pats fans, a loss would be 10 times more crushing.

A loss reinforces all our insecurities. It takes those questions that have lingered since the start of training camp Can they overcome the lack of defensive depth? Can the secondary handle a legitimate passing attack? Can they win on the road? Can they win if Brady isn't more perfect than Curt Henning? and brings us ever closer to conceding that there are no answers; or just that the answer's "no" across the board.

With a loss, the Patriots become the 2010 Red Sox; a team that we know, deep down, doesn't have what it takes, but that we keep giving every chance in the world to prove us wrong. We make excuses and extend once firm deadlines for them to turn it all around, only to be left disappointed and dissatisfied.

With a loss, it becomes a lot easier to gauge the Patriots status as a realistic Super Bowl contender, and a lot harder to take them seriously.

Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on CSNNE.com. Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

Watch Tom Brady's daughter Vivian tear it up on ski slopes

Watch Tom Brady's daughter Vivian tear it up on ski slopes

Tom Brady's daughter Vivian is a natural on skis.

The New England Patriots quarterback and apparently proud father posted a comical video of his 4-year-old daughter tearing it up on the ski hill. Vivian took on the bottom section of the run while adhering to the all-important instructions from the Super Cool Ski Instructor from the Comedy Central show, "South Park."

Brady added the audio from the "South Park" ski instructor to the video of his daughter skiing, and included a joke about "french frying" and "pizzaing" at the correct moments. 

"That’s my girl! Pizzaing when she's supposed to pizza, French frying when she's supposed to French fry... NOT having a bad time!!" Brady joked on Instagram.

Curran: Jets' 2015 tampering with Revis more extensive than NFL revealed

Curran: Jets' 2015 tampering with Revis more extensive than NFL revealed

The Patriots obviously got it right when they pushed away from the table during the Darrelle Revis bidding war in 2015. 

The once-great corner spent the 2016 season languishing on the field. He’s spending the early part of the offseason reacting negatively to backpack journalism after midnight. 

MORE PATRIOTS

But the alleged double KO by Revis and his buddies isn’t what prompts this submission. 

It’s the revelation from Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News that the tampering the Jets engaged in when they were prying Revis loose from the Patriots was way, way more involved than what the NFL fined them for. And that Jets owner Woody Johnson knew all about it. 

Mehta leads his piece revealing that, long before free agency opened in 2015, Revis “was ready to squeeze more money out of [Johnson] who he knew would be willing to overpay for his services again.”

Mehta reports that, “back-channel discussions with the Jets in February set the foundation for a Revis reunion . . . 

“Team officials in stealth mode communicated with Revis, Inc., through private cell phones and face-to-face covert meetings at the 2015 Scouting Combine rather than make calls from the team's landlines at their Florham Park facility. No paper trails were a must.

“Johnson, the driving force behind bringing back Revis to right a wrong in his mind, endorsed all of it.”

The Patriots -- who were in the midst of the Deflategate colonoscopy that resulted in absurd-level discipline -- lodged a complaint with the league over the Jets tampering after Revis signed with the Jets in mid-March of 2015. 

The Jets were fined $100,000 but weren’t docked any draft picks.. The tender wrist slap came, ostensibly, because Johnson moronically stated at a December press conference that he’d “love” to have Revis return to New York. 

Maybe Johnson wasn’t being a dummy. That comment provided cover for the league office -- which has a documented history of treating the two NYC franchises with kid gloves -- to let the Jets off easy. 

Mehta’s article is the latest offering from him since completing his heel turn against Revis. 

Mehta did everything but fly the plane to bring Revis to New York once the 2014 season ended. And this is what he wrote the day the Jets penalty came down: 

The NFL’s attempt to uncover any dirt was an exercise in futility, a witch hunt driven by nonsense from a hypocritical organization with no reason to feel threatened by its competitor. 

You may wonder what’s the point? 

Clearly, the Patriots got it right while the Jets cheated, got what they wanted, and are now getting what they deserved. 

And everyone already knows the league office’s investigations and operations arms under the brutally incompetent leadership of Troy Vincent are a laughingstock. 

All true. But if I don’t write this now, I may have no recollection of this particular instance of league corruption given the absolute avalanche of other incidents