After the Patriots lost at home for the first time in the regular season since 2008 last week, the team seemed to be in a state of flux. The two-game losing streak, coupled with a tough road trip to New Jersey to take on the Jets, appeared to shake the team's confidence a bit.
Tom Brady spoke about looking forward to seeing how the team responds, and Bill Belichick stressed the need to start over at 0-0 in the second half, essentially wiping the slate clean and starting over. Vince Wilfork spoke later in the week and stated he maintained his faith in his team.
With all the talk about getting straightened out mentally, it led to this week's Samsonite Make Your Case.
Are you more concerned with the team's mental state or overall talent level?
PFW's Andy Hart says ...
Talent is the root of all the problems in New England right now. Defensively there simply aren't enough starting caliber players and capable playmakers to be competitive and impactful on a weekly basis. Even offensively we're seeing a lack of depth at times in the passing game, most notably at the wide receiver position.
The problem is that eventually physical shortcomings lead to off-field problems. Whether it's a lack of confidence as a team, a fractured locker room or finger pointing, at some point players realize this isn't the year, that they can't compete on a regular basis. Heck, we saw Bill Belichick himself make that type of admission in the NFL Network documentary "A Football Life."
Mental issues and locker room issues can be dealt with in a variety of ways. Teams with great coaching and leadership can work through those problems. But when a team simply doesn't have enough talent to compete – as is clearly the case on the Patriots defense in particular this fall – there isn't much that can be done about it until the following offseason.
The Patriots will continue to be a solid regular-season football team and win games because they still have the advantage that is Tom Brady and Belichick. But when push comes to shove against other competitive, talented football teams, New England doesn't have the horses to match up on a team level in 2011. It's a sad truth at this midpoint of the season, but it's indeed the truth.
PFW's Paul Perillo says ...
In the past I never worried about how the Patriots would respond to adversity. It was a given the team would get re-focused and energized and put forth its best effort in times of crisis. That almost always led to victories. Today, I'm not so sure.
When I hear respected players like Brady and Wilfork going out of their way to express confidence, it tells me they feel the team may need a little pick me up. If my feeling is correct, the Patriots may be lacking some confidence at a time when it's needed most.
Obviously I don't worry about Brady and Wilfork and other veterans who have been through the ups and downs before. But those types of players are becoming more and more scarce in the Patriots locker room, and it's tough to expect young players who haven't experienced everything in the past to respond properly when times are tough. Right now, I can understand if some of those inexperienced guys are questioning themselves.
So, from a mental perspective, I wonder where the Patriots are right now. A win or two can right the ship for sure, but I worry about how a loss could tip the scales.
Now it's the fans turn to cast their vote in this week's Samsonite Make Your Case poll.