By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Jimmy Garoppolo suffered a bad injury on Sunday. It was apparently the best part of Manish Mehta’s day.
OK, perhaps he wasn’t dancing in the office, but there at least appeared to be some celebration based on Mehta’s column for the New York Daily News, which came with the catchy headline of, “Jets will be in first place in AFC East when Tom Brady returns, and they’ll have Jimmy Garoppolo to thank.” Rolls right off the tongue, doesn’t it?
Manish promoted his story on Twitter (for the second of what will likely end up being 300 times) with his thesis: “Patriot Nation needs to accept it: You’re not winning the next 2 games with Jacoby Brissett.”
Before you get upset, know that this is what Manish does. He writes to rile you up. And he’s good at it.
With that being understood, let’s proceed.
“The Evil Empire will be looking up at the Jets in the AFC East standings when Tom Brady returns.”
“The fine folks that make up Patriot Nation will now convince themselves that osmosis will help rookie Jacoby Brissett win the next two games against the Texans and Bills before Brady returns from exile. Spoiler alert: He won’t.”
“To make matters worse for the New England crazies, the Jets will be all alone atop the division upon Brady’s return.”
“Never say never with the Patriots — except for now. Belichick faces an impossible mission with Brissett in the next two games. The Hoodie Fan Club needs to think about this logically.”
“Belichick won’t be able to fix this problem. He’ll be chasing the team that he loves to hate when Brady comes back.”
You get the idea. Basically, the message is this: The Patriots are going to lose their next two games, and if you think otherwise, you are stupid.
Again, considering the message is coming from someone who’s forecasting the Jets to take over first place, it’s all a bit humorous.
The story is simply what it sets out to be — a bold prediction. It’s based on Mehta’s gut feeling. There’s no real way to argue against a gut feeling.
But here goes.
Manish Mehta knows less than zero about Jacoby Brissett. Nor should he. Patriots beat writers likely don’t have intimate knowledge about Bryce Petty’s and Christian Hackenberg’s abilities (or lack thereof) as NFL quarterbacks. It’s easy to say “Unknown Quarterback will stink.” But Brissett didn’t exactly look overwhelmed on Sunday, going 6-for-9 for 92 yards and simply taking what the defense was giving him. He completed 67.9 percent of his 56 preseason passes for 387 yards, one touchdown, and no picks, and he scurried for 48 yards on eight preseason carries.
He’s not going to light it up, but there’s reason enough to believe he can play well enough for the Patriots to win once or twice over the next two weeks.
Second, there is this: the Jets are the Jets. Which is to say, they’re fine. They’re not great. They’re not a mess. They’re fine. They barely fended off the Buffalo Bills. Their quarterback is average. Their defense stinks. They are, for better and for worse, the New York Jets. They’ll probably go 8-8.
Their schedule, despite Mehta’s insistence, is anything but a cakewalk. They have to go to Kansas City before returning home to host the Seahawks. Granted, Seattle’s been out of sorts to start the year, but Mehta counting that game as a victory may be the most foolhardy part of his whole column. You don’t guarantee wins against a team like Seattle. Nor is a trip to K.C. anything to scoff at. Just ask the 2014 Super Bowl-winning Patriots about that.
Yet by his forecasting, the Jets will easily win both and they will improve to 3-1, while the Patriots (who host the Buffalo Bills in Week 4) will definitely lose both of their games, thus propelling New York’s second football team into first place in the AFC East.
Hey, it’s sports. It technically could happen. And really, from many perspectives, the Jets sitting in first place would make for a good story. Unfortunately for Manish, that’s all it is — a story.
And some of his stories? Well, some of his stories haven’t held up well to history.
We won’t have to wait very long to see how this story compares with reality.