Clint's Corner Archive
Clint's Corner Archive
The source for back issues of Clint's Corner. Forget a trade? Were Clint's predictions correct? Here's every edition, verbatim.
So the "best team in the NFL" went 0-2 on road visits to AFC contenders San Diego and Miami. Tom Brady and the offense have been cooled down considerably. The defense, although better against the run in Miami, still has fallen well short of their preseason and early season expectations of being dominant.
Both opponents outplayed the Patriots, and the first ever "losing streak" in Tom Brady's young career has dropped the Pats from perceived playoff shoe-ins to a team struggling to find out what's going wrong. I for one am of the belief that what the Pats are missing most cannot be dissected in the film room or corrected in practice. It's Gillette Stadium. As quickly as things seemed to go sour when the Pats took to the road, they can get better just as fast with some home cooking.
Has everyone forgotten how tough it is to win on the road in the NFL? How tough it is to win on the road in your division? The Bills last season were 2-14, yet took both the 11-5 Pats and 11-5 Dolphins down to the wire in Buffalo. I dare say that each team was "lucky" to leave Buffalo with the "W." In week 4 of this season, both Miami and New England suffered their first loss, each as favorites, each playing on the road. Miami had the good fortune to host in week 5, but what if Sunday's game was played in Foxboro?
Last season the Patriots won the AFC East despite being tied at 11-5 with Miami for one reason: they fared better in the division on the road. Each team went 3-1 at home, each losing to the Jets. It was the Patriots, however, who gained the advantage with their huge win in the Meadowlands late in the season. It's winning on the road that almost always makes the difference, not winning at home. You're supposed to win at home.
Credit the Dolphins with a deserved win and for holding home field advantage. However, the Pats today are only 1 game behind the Dolphins, already have a divisional road win to Miami's none, and have yet to play host to a divisional opponent while Miami is now 2-0 in that category. I'm not making excuses. I'm not saying the Pats should not have expected to win in Miami, nor am I saying they may as well not show up when playing good teams on the road. What I am saying is that a win on the road, especially in your division, is huge. Winning at home, especially in your division, is a must. Losing on the road, especially in your division, is not cause for panic, particularly before leaf-peeping season.
How have other NFL "powers" fared on the road? Let's take a look at the 6 teams who ESPN.com currently has ranked ahead of the 3-2 Patriots in their weekly "Power Rankings," in order from one to six. The Raiders are 2-0 on the road with wins over Pittsburgh and Buffalo. Neither of these teams has a winning record, and neither stacks up to San Diego or Miami (nonetheless, credit is due Oakland for their unblemished road slate). The Dolphins are 1-1 on the road, beating the Colts in Indy and getting killed by the Chiefs in Arrowhead. The Broncos are 1-1 as well, with a win over San Francisco followed by a shockingly lopsided loss to the Ravens on Monday Night Football.
The Buccaneers, ranked 4th, are an impressive 3-0 on the road, and beat a divisional opponent on the road in Atlanta. Combined, however, the Bucs' road victims are 3-8. Again, not quite the test New England faced the past two weeks in San Diego and Miami. On to the Saints, who have been dominant at home, yet are 1-1 on the road with their only loss being a 26-21 setback to the Lions. You heard me right. The Lions.
Finally, ranked 6th, we have the 3-2 Philadelphia Eagles, still the pick by many to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. Like the Patriots, they too are 1-2 on the road, but at the risk of sounding like a broken record here, the Eagles did not lose in San Diego and Miami, but rather in Tennessee (1-4) and Jacksonville (3-1).
In summary, the six teams ahead of the Pats are a combined 8-6 on the road, with only one of those road wins (Saints over Bucs) coming against a team with a record as good or better than the Chargers or Dolphins (both undefeated at home). Only 3 of those 8 road wins have come against teams with more than 2 wins, while two of the road losses represented the only wins the winning teams still have to this day. At best, this collective road effort can only be termed as mediocre, and this is from a leading sports entertainment company's well-thought-out top 6 teams in the entire NFL.
Let's just look at the past two weeks and how the Dolphins and Chargers faired aside from the Pats. The same 4-0 Chargers who were the first team to beat the Patriots in 11 months went on the road in their division and were outclassed 26-9 by the Broncos, who just 6 days earlier trailed the winless (and hapless) Ravens 31-3 at halftime en route to a 34-23 defeat. The same Dolphins who sit atop the AFC East became Kansas City's 1st home win of the season while surrendering 48 points. KC followed up that impressive showing in a squeaker over the gangrenous Jets, needing last minute heroics from Trent Green to solve the NFL's 31st ranked defense. See a pattern here folks?
The Patriots have big games upcoming at home against the Packers and Broncos, but the bigger one will be on November 3rd in Buffalo. If the Patriots can win there, they'll be 2-1 in the division with 3 divisional home games yet to play while Miami will still have not played a single divisional road contest. Even if Miami is 3-0 at home in the division by then, they'd have to win at the Jets (11/10 Sunday Night) and Buffalo (12/1) to equal New England's road mark, setting up another dandy on what figures to be a frigid post-Xmas affair in Foxboro. Can Miami go 3-0 on the road in the division, all in sub-40 degree temperatures?
Was Miami the better team last Sunday? Absolutely. Is Miami a better team than New England? Only time will tell. I for one am not ready to concede the AFC East title just yet, and bye the way, the 2-3 Bills may have something to say about this "two team race" before it's all said and done as well.
See you next week.