By Bruce Allen, Patriots Daily Staff
Editor’s note: Greg Doyle is out in Cleveland for tomorrow’s game, College Scout will return next week with a look at the safeties.
This weekend the Patriots are in Cleveland to take on the 2-5 Browns, led by former Patriot assistant coach Eric Mangini.
While the Browns record isn’t impressive, their win over the New Orleans Saints two weeks ago certainly was. The Patriots need to be wary of this team, which is sure to give them a fight on Sunday. Here are a few reasons why this is such an important game for New England.
At 6-1, the Patriots boast the best record in the NFL, and sit atop many of the various “power rankings” put out by media outlets. A loss to the Browns would severely dent their credibility and with games agai
nst AFC powerhouses Pittsburgh and Indianapolis up next, there is the possibility of a three game slide to 6-4, at which point all the goodwill and feelings built up over this 6-1 start would be gone. A win in Cleveland, even coupled with losses the next two games makes for a much more palatable 7-3 record.
This is an AFC game, and in terms of playoff positioning, you’ve got to get as many of these AFC games as you can. The Patriots right now have the best record in AFC games at 5-1, but the Jets, Steelers and Texans also each only have one AFC loss. The Patriots need a win to keep that AFC record strong.
Looking at records across the AFC, the Jets, Ravens, Steelers, Colts and Chiefs are
all one game behind the Patriots at 5-2. The Patriots need a win to stay ahead of those teams for another week. The Titans sit at 5-3, but have a bye this week. The Ravens play the Dolphins, and the Steelers play the Bengals this week, games that both Baltimore and Pittsburgh should win. The Colts have a fairly tough game on the road against Philadelphia this weekend, and the Chiefs renew an old rivalry by heading to Oakland to play the surprising (4-4) Raiders.
In terms of the AFC East, the Patriots need a win to keep ahead of the Jets, who play in Detroit this weekend, a game they should win. They also need a win to remain two games ahead of the Dolphins, who have a tougher matchup in Baltimore this Sunday. Keep in mind the Dolphins are undefeated on the road this season.
This game is also important in tiebreaker scenarios. The Jets play in Cleveland next week, and the Browns travel to Miami on December 5th. The Patriots need a win here to ensure they stay a game up on common opponent tiebreakers with the Jets. Of course, the Steelers and Ravens are in the same division as the Browns, and play them twice. Each of those teams has already beaten the Browns once this season.
The Patriots need a win to show that this young team is mature enough to go out on the road and defeat an underdog opponent that is sure to put up a fight. They need to build on road wins in Miami and San Diego, especially with a very tough game in Pittsburgh coming up next week. They need to be mature and focused enough not to be riding high after the Vikings win and avoid looking ahead to the Steelers next week. Avoid the dreaded “trap game,” in other words.
Facing a former assistant coach is never easy for Belichick, as evidenced by the games against Mangini’s Jets in the past, and against the Josh McDaniels-led Broncos last season. The Patriots need a win to keep Bill Belichick from being grumpy next week in practice.
Important enough for you?