Faced with a series of underperforming opponents, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and company will do their best to talk up that particular week's foe. Against Kansas City, we heard first-time starter Tyler Palko could do the same things as Matt Cassel. Last week, we heard records didn't matter when the Patriots geared up for the Eagles.
This week, with the victory-starved, Peyton Manning-less Colts on the horizon, the Patriots went to work again. But just minutes after talking up the Colts, we realized the decision-makers in Indy didn't exactly feel the same way about their own team.
It started with Colts quarterback Curtis Painter, whose passer rating of 66.6 ranks 32nd out of 33 qualifying quarterbacks this season. And he's one of six quarterbacks with more interceptions than touchdown passes in 2011.
Yet, Belichick said Tuesday, "He certainly does a good job of handling the offense. I think he can make a lot of throws that you want the quarterback to make, down the field, on the outside, reading his progression out based on coverage. He's a guy that's pretty effective."
Later, Belichick deflected a question about the Colts' defense, which ranks dead last in points allowed per game (29.7). And despite boasting one of the NFL's best combination of defensive ends in Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, the Colts are ranked 29th in the league with just 18 sacks. Belichick noted the numbers have been skewed because the Colts have played from behind a lot more in the past, which certainly has some level of effect on the matter.
However, literally minutes after Belichick talked up Painter and the Indy defense, the Colts held a news conference to fire defensive coordinator Larry Coyer and bench Painter for Dan Orlovsky, who started the regular season as the fourth-stringer.
Now, let's take it back a bit and be fair. Belichick has to talk up his opposition because he's a firm believer of bulletin-board material, and that's perfectly acceptable. And on most occasions, Belichick will back up the spin control of examples when that particular week's opponent has played well, so it's typically not an empty proclamation.
But when Belichick — who has built one of the most successful franchises in the history of professional sports — talks up a team that legitimately has a chance to go 0-16, it's easy to wonder how much of it he truly believes.
And that gets taken to another level when, mere moments later, the defensive coordinator is fired and the quarterback is benched.
Now, it should be fun to hear what they have to say about Orlovsky.