John’s Well-Educated Guesses: Week 4

It’s always been my dream to start a blog series that would go until the end of the season.  This is one blog in that series, and I will answer for my predictions next week.  

Disclaimer: My takes are almost always correct.  So buckle up- buckaroo

After a vintage Tom Brady 4th quarter comeback win, the Patriots are 2-1 and set to host the Carolina Panthers also coming in at 2-1.  I’m hoping last week’s game against the Texans acts as a catalyst.  I want to see that the Patriots have turned a corner, developed an identity, and they continue to show mental toughness.  While this is a week 4 game against and NFC opponent, I will be watching in hopes that those things continue to come through.

Full disclosure, I don’t know a ton about the Panthers.  We only see them once every four years, but the games tend to be close.  We all remember the Luke Kuechly missed pass interference call last time (4 years ago now, how time flies), and the Patriots win over the Panthers in the Super Bowl will always have a place in my heart.  Otherwise, these are two teams without a ton of history.

From afar, it still looks like Carolina is fighting off their Super Bowl hangover from early 2016.  They were really good (almost an undefeated regular season), then all of a sudden, they were really bad (an abomination last season).  It seems they are a great example of how hard it is to have sustained success in the NFL.  With most of their key pieces still in place, it will be interesting to see what happens with them this year.

With the problems that Deshaun Watson gave the Defense last week, I do expect the Patriots to be better defensively (they can’t get much worse right?).  It doesn’t help that they are playing the evolved form of Watson in Cam Newton.  In the past, they have elected to set the edge and keep Newton from killing them with his legs.  He can still make all the throws, but his receivers are depleted.  Greg Olsen is out with injury, and they are keeping a close eye on Kelvin Benjamin with a knee. 

I also expect the Patriots offense to continue to look good.  Brandin Cooks had his ‘welcome to New England’ moment.  I’m a little worried if the O-Line keeps giving up pressure, but they always seem to be able to make chicken salad out of chicken shit.  I don’t see any reason we can’t continue to put up big points.

Newton is the X-Factor, but if the Patriots can keep him contained and frustrated, they can score enough to end it early.

Now, on to the guesses for which this blog is named (Well educated as they are):

Prediction: Christian McCaffrey will get more than 10 targets in the passing game:  As I mentioned, Olsen is out and Benjamin is hobbled with a knee.  I think that leaves Newton as a threat to scramble, and McCaffrey as a safety valve.  Our linebackers are not very fast (or good at football).  I think he will be the focal point of the Panther attack as he can easily get open if Cam can buy time.  Look for him to be heavily targeted.

Prediction:  Brady will have time in the pocket: I think the Patriots really make it an emphasis to limit the hits on their all-world quarterback.  The Offensive line should play better, and I think they commit to the run to shorten the game.  That will set up Brady to pick his spots and do what he does best.  This isn’t a game they have to throw it 50 times to win, and I think Brady will have time to distribute the rock when he needs to.

Prediction:  The entire team will stand together with locked arms during the National Anthem:  Devin Mccourty said they were going to do something together as a team.  The only other option I can think of is that they will do exactly what the Dallas Cowboys did last weekend.  All kneel together in a moment of silence and then all stand for the Anthem.

Prediction: 41-28 – I think the Pats hang 40 and Killa Cam racks up some garbage time stats.  This is a game the Pats should win.