Why you should believe the Pats will win and stop hyping the hypothetical
On January 6th, columnist Dan Shaughnessy of our friends at the Boston Globe wrote a column that brashly and with perhaps more perceived hostility expressed what most sports writers and reporters across the nation had already agreed on; that the Patriots will handle the Texans at home in Gillette Stadium and move on to their seventh AFC Championship game in twelve years.
Across the course of the column he called the Texans “frauds” and stated his belief that the Pats could not have gotten an easier road to the conference championship.
His words have not gone unnoticed by the Houston team, as star running back Arian Foster promptly took a screen shot of Shaughnessy’s column and made it his Twitter avatar; the implication being that he recognizes the criticism and welcomes the opportunity to prove him wrong.
The only problem with Foster’s gesture is that it is the exact type of misguided motivation that lead the Texans to getting obliterated in Foxboro the first time.
Critics of Shaughnessy’s stance, and the stance of all others who believe that the Patriots should be given every faith in the world that they will beat the Texans, are trying to create drama where there isn’t any.
This is not about some type of blind allegiance to the Patriots or any sort of worshipping-at-the-alter of Tom Brady.
The fact of the matter is that the Houston Texans don’t deserve any confidence in their ability to beat the Patriots because they have done absolutely nothing to earn it.
They blew their chance at a first round bye and the possible first seed in the conference by losing three of their last four games. That downward spiral began with their crushing loss to the Pats on Monday Night Football, when they showed up in Foxboro wearing letterman jackets to insinuate their varsity status in the AFC.
They were promptly humiliated and returned to Houston dragging their jackets behind them with the loss that would eventually be the tie breaker to give New England the first round bye.
Then they lost to the Minnesota Vikings before losing the next week to the Indianapolis Colts; a Colts team that was playing for absolutely nothing as they had already locked themselves into the fifth seed in the AFC.
In last week’s abysmal 19-13 playoff win over the Cincinnati Bengals, Matt Schaub passed for 262 yards, no touchdowns and one interception. Their lone touchdown came from Foster, who also looked to be the lone player on offense that showed up for the game. Their other twelve points came from kicker Shayne Graham on four field goals.
Keep in mind, the Texans played that game at home. One touchdown will not be enough to beat the Patriots on the road. Is there anyone who has watched them play a game this season that would disagree?
It is the media’s job to look at this situation for what it is, not create some type of romantic scenario in which the Texans come back to claim their vengeance on an over-confident Patriots team.
And it is the Texans’ job to come into Gillette Stadium and pull off an upset in order to start earning their way toward respect.
When the Jets arrived to play the Patriots in January of 2011, they were underdogs. The Patriots had sailed through the regular season, and had just thumped them 45-3 at the beginning of December. The Jets admittedly spent the rest of their season game-planning specifically to beat the Patriots. They took the loss personally, and Rex Ryan and his team made it their mission to get past their juggernaut divisional rivals.
And they did.
They did exactly what Arian Foster is trying to do now; prove the critics wrong. They were on top of the world.
Then they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship game, and have not been back to the postseason in two years. The Patriots have been back both seasons, and played in the Super Bowl last year.
It’s not enough to look at one game as the salvation of your reputation or the way to prove people wrong. Winning a Super Bowl is the way to prove people wrong. Getting to the Super Bowl is a pretty good start.
The reason that teams like the Patriots and whatever-team-Peyton-Manning-is-on get the unbridled benefit of the doubt in these situations is because they have earned it. How are you supposed to believe in the underdog when the underdog has given you every reason not to?
The truth will unfold in the weeks to come. The best part of the NFL is the “any given Sunday” possibility that has brought us some of the greatest sports moments of all time. If the Texans win, they have a chance to begin a new era for their team and their franchise just as the Patriots did twelve years ago.
But when you are picking a winner, you don’t pick the guys who have everything to prove.
You pick the guys who have already proved it.