Last week, the Detroit Lions had the New England Patriots full attention.
That hadn’t happened for a long, long time. The Lions, one of the two remaining franchises that were in operation at the start of the Super Bowl era and still have never cracked a spot in the featured game (the Cleveland Browns is the other), and the Patriots, are as different as night and day for success.
New England has been to the most Super Bowl games, won six of them, and are still led by the coach who directed all that success, Bill Belichick. So, with that as a backdrop, how did the Lions get the Patriots attention?
First, and most importantly, while the man that led those six Super Bowl wins is still the head coach, the quarterback responsible for that success is long gone. Tom Brady had decided, like so many, to spend his advanced years in Florida. The big difference is that Brady didn’t go there for the fishing and sun, but rather to quarterback the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Okay, so the Patriots don’t have Brady, but they did crack the playoff field last season with rookie Mac Jones guiding the Patriots offense. The success in New England is also keyed by a solid defense and special teams play. So, how did the Lions get the Patriots attention?
The Lions landed in Foxboro last week with the highest scoring offense in the league and the Patriots were coming off back-to-back losses to the Baltimore Ravens and Green Bay Packers.
That’s why the Patriots prepared for a tough battle against the Lions … and that preparation paid off big time. New England shutout the highest scoring offense and even after the Lions were blanked last week, 29-0, they still have the highest scoring offense in the NFC and only trail the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs in the entire league.
What can we learn from this Patriots win?
New England can still circle the wagons and dominate an opponent with preparation led by Belichick and his capable coaching staff. But, there is another factor to consider when reviewing the Patriots whitewash over Detroit, they may have over-prepared.
Is that a problem?
When a team prepares for a game that they think is going to be a major challenge, and then it comes as easy as the Patriots victory over the Lions, there is a human tendency to under prepare for their next game. As much as coaches would like to think they can get the most out of their players every week with adept coaching, it doesn’t work that way. In real life, players are put on alert and play their best when the challenges are at their highest, and if they prepare so well one week and cash all their chips in a one-sided win, there is a part of the human makeup that perhaps they won’t have to apply the same level of intensity to win their next game.
Like this week in Cleveland.
The Browns are playing in a holding pattern, waiting for the December date when they get into their lineup the quarterback they are counting on to take them to their first Super Bowl, Deshaun Watson. The talented signal caller had his career with the Houston Texans ended because of legal trouble, and was acquired by the Browns earlier this year with full knowledge he wouldn’t be available immediately.
That did not stop the Browns from signing Watson to the largest guaranteed money contract in NFL history in their ongoing struggle to land a Super Bowl win. But, before Watson, the Browns are looking to stay in the hunt for a playoff berth with Jacoby Brissett running their offense. The journeyman backup has won two of his five starts this year, but leads Cleveland onto the field this week on the heels of back-to-back losses to the Atlanta Falcons and Los Angeles Chargers.
What does that mean?
It means that if a team is driven in preparation that may crush their opponent this week, it will likely be Cleveland that benefits from a real fear of their opponent. And, just like New England last Sunday, in this game the Browns focus is likely to overwhelm their opponent.
Qoxhi Picks: Cleveland Browns (-2½) over New England Patriots