Commentary

32 Questions: Can Patriots repeat scoring binge?

Updated: August 15, 2008, 11:57 AM ET
By Christopher Harris | ESPN.com

How close can the Pats come to repeating their 589-point season?

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.

And it's not going to happen for New England. Tom Brady isn't getting 50 touchdowns again. He'll be really good -- heck, I think he'll be the best quarterback in fantasy -- but defenses simply aren't going to let him throw like that again. Take Peyton Manning's 48-TD season in 2004. He followed it up with 28 scores in '05. And it wasn't like he suddenly stunk; in fact, his quarterback rating that year stayed in triple digits, one of only three seasons he's done that in his 10-season career. It's just really hard. Randy Moss isn't catching 20 touchdowns again. I don't care if opposing defenses have to put six guys on him, they're not letting Moss beat them deep three times in a game, as seemed to happen every other week in '07.

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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None of this is meant to scare you off Patriots players in your fantasy league. It just means you can't automatically expect Brady to be the No. 1 player in fantasy again (though it could happen). It means that Moss probably won't be the No. 4 player in all of fantasy, either. Heck, it means that Wes Welker probably won't be the No. 46 player in all of fantasy, even though he's a decent candidate to catch 100 balls again. So much needs to go right for such fantasy madness to happen, and even then, it probably won't. Yes, this offensive line is still very good, despite the Super Bowl hiccup. Yes, the defense is still pretty good, but not awesome. Yes, there are questions at third receiver, as there were all last year. But someone who didn't get hurt in '07 will in '08. Or defenses will be so stacked against the pass that Laurence Maroney will suddenly become a good fantasy player, stealing his passing brethren's thunder. Or Bill Belichick will finally show some mercy and call off the dogs every once in a while.

OK. No. That last one probably won't happen.

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.