Heading into Saturday night’s game against the Indianapolis Colts, the New England Patriots‘ many fans were and still are feeling very confident about their chances in the playoffs and in the Super Bowl. Before today, I was in the same boat. However, now that Brandon Spikes has been declared out for the remainder of the year, it is my humble opinion that the Patriots will not compete in the Super Bowl this season.
Now, Pats’ fans will understandably be quite upset at this notion. After all, the team has withstood multiple injuries on defense with the likes of Jerod Mayo, Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly lost for the season and many others for temporary stretches during the year. Why wouldn’t they be able to overcome the loss of Spikes?
There comes a point when your depth becomes to shallow to compensate for injuries on the defensive side of the ball, especially when your play falls off. For the Patriots, only Dane Fletcher, Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins are left at the linebacker position.
While these players are not bad, they still need time to develop into consistent playmakers, especially Hightower, who has struggled mightily at times this season. Expecting him to do even more than he is capable of is a scary thought for Patriots’ fans to ponder.
Particularly in the run game, the Patriots have suffered far too many losses with Wilfork, Kelly and Spikes all out, who as we all know, were their best run stuffers. Additionally, Spikes was the new field general at linebacker the minute Mayo went down and was one of the team’s leading tacklers. Losing him will be a big blow psychologically for the defense as well.
The Patriots may still get by Indy on Saturday night, but I have a hard time believing that they will be able to go into Denver, assuming that they win, of course, and beat the Denver Broncos with Fletcher as a starting linebacker. No disrespect to Fletcher, but he is not worthy of a starting job in the NFL–in my opinion. This injury could prove to be the final nail in the Patriots’ coffin this year.
They will simply not be able to beat a team like the San Francisco 49ers or the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl either, should they get there. Teams should, and likely will, exploit their lack of a run defense and score on them at will, ultimately disappointing Patriots’ fans who felt very good about their chances of a title run this year.