Patriots Face Tough Sledding in Chicago Blizzard

Twenty degrees at kickoff. High winds. Heavy snow accumulation. Almost zero visibility. By any definition, today’s game at Soldier Field will be played in a frigging Blizzard. And with that weather report, my prediction for today’s game moves from ….”near certain Pats win” to “we better not need points late because Brady is way overdue for a strip sack …..”

Forget the fact that this is a short week. And ignore those who claim Chicago’s stout defense would be the one able to quiet Brady and his orchestra. You give the Pats “twenty-eight degrees and clear” and this afternoon has 28-14 written all over it. December. NFC North Opponent. Pats riding a powerful hot streak. Cutler. Lovie. Sorry, I don’t care that the Bears are 9-3 …. Those ingredients all add up to a comfortable win. In fact, I’d say they might add up to more.  

But now? All bets are off as Mother Nature makes her debut on the Pats calendar. I know both teams have to play in it. And as tough as the wind will be on Brady, it could morph Jay Cutler from something average into something more akin to Derek Anderson. But if the weather is as bad as the forecast (an inch of snow per hour before GT), then you can’t help but think it evens things out and makes  today’s game more “trench warfare” than “aerial dogfight.”

Sure, the Pats short and mid-level passing game might still have some room to operate. But if the wind is truly howling, it certainly won’t be working at peak efficiency. And that leaves New England’s middling running game a bit vulnerable against Chicago’s formidable front seven. Worst case, the wind grounds all planes and New England is forced to slug it out. In that event, Chicago gains a big edge and one that should keep the game close.

That said, Cutler can be toxic in perfect conditions, let alone miserable ones like today. Yes, he has played better this year. And his interceptions are way down. But I’ll take my chances with this guy, especially if the balls are wet and the wind is playing havoc. Call me crazy, but I think the smart bet is to short Cutler in a game like this and assume that he makes three or more mistakes. The Pats defense has been vacuuming up turnovers of late and the conditions seem ripe for that to continue this afternoon.

All told, while the game figures to be tight, I still expect the Pats to win today. Sure, there is less margin of error and Brady doesn’t figure to post very gaudy numbers, but this one is just too important for the Pats to lose and they know it. After all, a win would go a very long way toward wrapping up the one seed in the AFC and that probably means improving their conference title odds by 15-20 percent. Leaving that boost on the snowy fields of Chicago seems like a waste.  So expect a spirited effort and a win. Final score … Pats 21, Bears 14.

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