32 Questions: Can Patriots repeat scoring binge?
First off, for the record, those 589 points don't represent the highest per-game average in the history of the NFL. The 1950 L.A. Rams of Norm Van Brocklin, Bob Waterfield and Tom Fears averaged 38.8 points in their 12 games, while the '07 Pats averaged 36.8. It's interesting to note that like last year's Patriots, those Rams lost the NFL title game.
But let's be honest: 589 is a ludicrous number of points. The next-closest single-season team total in recent memory came in '98, when the Vikings scored 556 (and lost in the NFC title game) and in '00, when the Rams scored 540 (and lost in the Super Bowl sensing a pattern?). And get this: of the top 30 point-per-game scoring seasons in league history, only five squads were able to follow it up with another historic season: the '41 Bears, those '50 Rams, the '58 Colts, the '67 Raiders and the '98 Rams, who were the only team to do it three years in a row (in '99 and '00). In other words: repeating such a ridiculous scoring pace is really hard.
Also, the Patriots have made a living zigging while others expect them to zag. Their murderers' row of a non-division schedule (San Diego, Denver, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, Seattle) will prepare for New England by flexing secondary muscles, installing new nickel and dime looks, practicing blitzes every hour for a week, trying to follow the "blueprint" laid out by the Giants last February. But it's not a blueprint. The way you stop New England is the way you stop any good team: pressure the quarterback, stop the run, cover the receivers. But as NFL defenses prepare for an aerial onslaught, maybe offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels will rush it 35 times. Or he'll throw it to Kevin Faulk 12 times in a game. The Pats aren't stupid, they aren't proud, and they aren't blinkered. That insane confluence that led to all those ridiculous point totals, especially in the first half of 2007, isn't likely to come again.
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Christopher Harris is a fantasy baseball, football and racing analyst for ESPN.com. He is a six-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association award winner across all three of those sports. You can e-mail him here.
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