Aqib Talib steps on the field in a Patriots uniform for the first time Sunday as your New England Patriots host rookie media darling Andrew Luck and the surprising Indianapolis Colts.
The hope is that the talented cornerback will revive New England's systemically broken pass defense.
But don't book your Super Bowl tickets just yet says our postseason travel agent, the Cold, Hard Football Facts.
New England's struggles to stop the pass are well documented, as we discussed early in the season in this space and on CHFF Radio on Patriots.com.
We noted the breakdowns and failures in the secondary as early as 2006. It's now accepted Gridiron Gospel that the Patriots have huge issues to overcome.
And right now it might be even worse than you think. The Patriots enter Week 11 No. 28 league-wide in Defensive Passer Rating (97.3). Put another way, opposing quarterbacks torch them for a 97.3 passer rating week after week.
For a little perspective, future first-ballot Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady, the leader of the most consistently prolific offenses in football history, boasts a career passer rating of 96.6.
That's right: the 2012 Patriots make every quarterback look better than Tom Brady.
The numbers are so bad we have to look at them in historical context. Here is the list of every team in NFL history (excluding other 2012 teams for the moment) that surrendered a Defensive Passer Rating of 97.0 or worse.
San Francisco 49ers
Green Bay Packers
Kansas City Chiefs
New Orleans Saints
New England Patriots
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Two things jump off the list:
One, most of these teams played in very recent history. The NFL has neutered defenses in recent years, making it easier than ever to pass the football. As a result passer rating numbers are higher than ever. Relative to the context of their era, those 1966 Giants (97.2 DPR) were certainly a hell of a lot worse defensively than the 2012 Patriots.
Two, and most importantly, almost all these teams were terrible. Two of them went .500, while 23 of 27 teams had losing records.
This list of unlovable losers includes the only two winless teams in modern football history: the 0-8-1 Colts of 1982 and the 0-16 Lions of 2008, who top the list. It's absolutely no coincidence that the team with the worst pass defense in history also had the worst record in history.
This list proves a simple truism of football: Winning in the NFL is all about the passing game. It's hard to win consistently if your defense is getting carved up like a Thanksgiving turkey every Sunday.
Only two of 27 teams on the list produced winning records: Brett Favre and the 2004 Packers went 10-6; your 2012 Patriots currently sit at 6-3.
So this team is battling against a heavy statistical tide right now, fighting a current of defensive ineptitude that makes it difficult to win in any era.
The Patriots win only because of their Hall of Fame quarterback and a historic offense.
Football fans in New England seem to have grown blasé about the offensive fireworks we see week after week. They should embrace it because it won't last forever.
The Patriots are not only No. 1 in the NFL in scoring this year (33.2 PPG), they are on pace to be the No. 7 scoring offense in NFL history.
Here are the top-scoring teams (total points) in league history:
No. 1 – 2007 Patriots (589)
No. 2 – 2011 Packers (560)
No. 3 – 1998 Vikings (556)
No. 4 – 2011 Saints (547)
No. 5 – 1983 Redskins (541)
No. 6 – 2000 Rams (540)
No. 7 – 2012 Patriots (531)* projected
All of which brings us back to Talib. Certainly, he's good enough to make an impact on this defense, right?
Well, maybe not. He was the starting cornerback last year on a Tampa Bay defense that posted a 97.2 Defensive Passer Rating – that's right, almost exactly the same as the number produced by the Patriots this year. If he was such a great impact player, you wouldn't have known it last year.
The bottom line is that the Patriots have a 3-13 defense that is lucky to be paired with one of the great offenses of all time.
That offense should find some easy pickins against the Colts this week; Indianapolis is nearly as bad on pass defense as the Patriots, with a 96.5 Defensive Passer Rating.
Brady and that offense give the Patriots a huge advantage this week. Colts rookie QB Luck has generated plenty of headlines but rumors of his greatness are far from confirmed. In reality, Luck and the Colts bring to Foxboro a very below-average passing game:
No. 15 in Real Passing Yards Per Attempt (6.53 YPA)
No. 24 in Real Quarterback Rating (76.0)
No. 25 in Offensive Passer Rating (79.1)
Meanwhile, Luck has thrown just 10 TD and 9 INT this year, including just 3 TDs with 4 INTs in his last five games. Those are far from great numbers in this day and age.
He'll put up some nice numbers on Sunday. But he'll likely be schooled by the old master Tom Brady.
Listen to Kerry and Cold Hard Football Facts every Wednesday at 4pm on Patriots.com Radio.