It's nice that Jonathan Kraft is concerned about my fantasy team, but in that realm I'm more of an Aaron Rodgers sort of guy.
In the real world, the Patriots host the Chargers Sunday in their home opener, a game in which fans have been encouraged by one Tom Brady to get nice and "lubed up," in the hours prior to kickoff. Clearly this was a breach, for had Brady not said anything, the fans were surely going to file into Gillette Stadium carrying the remnants of the grape soda and fruit punch they had been pounding in the lots along Route 1. Now, they might booze. Quelle Horreur.
Look, to quote a certain coach, the tailgating culture of football is what is. Just like anything in life, there are those who will be responsible and enjoy themselves, and then there are the tools that take it to another level. The media hubris that followed in the hours after Brady told the public to "start drinking early" bordered on an insanity not seen since our last two-inch snowstorm. I actually almost went out and bought bread and milk in anticipation I might not get anywhere Sunday should Route 1 be impassable with Miller Lite pounders.
Brady's point in all this, of course, was a call to Patriot fans to turn the morgue that is Gillette into a true football atmosphere. That means the fans in the upper deck need to drown out the fraudulent silence coming from the red seats. And if the public is so offended by his comments, then start pointing the finger...well, everywhere. Alcohol signage is at every turn in every professional stadium in America, and I'm pretty sure Budweiser isn't hoping you'll enjoy that one, watered-down lager that plagued our brewing society for far too many years before turning to Pepsi.
Let's get over ourselves, shall we? Tailgate responsibly, and trust officials to police the ones that don't. There are far more of the former than the latter, and we have to be pretty daft to assume that Brady just put that group over the edge for Sunday. Please.
And on that note:
This week's prediction roundup:
Peter King, Sports Illustrated: Patriots 37, Chargers 28. "If Tom Brady and Chad Henne threw for 933 last Monday, shouldn't Brady and Philip Rivers throw for 1,033? Amazing game Monday night. But just keep this in mind: The Patriots had a 69 percent-31 percent pass-run ratio against the Dolphins. Bill Belichick is a class changeup gameplanner. I wouldn't be surprised to see the run get used in this one. A little bit, anyway."
Globe Staff: Three out of five pick the Patriots.
ESPN.com staff: Patriots across the board.
CBS Sports.com staff: Four out of five pick the Patriots.
Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News: Patriots 27, Chargers 24. "The difference here comes down to the versatility and depth to attack defenses that will offer multiple looks. Although the Chargers have a mismatch-creating player in Antonio Gates, they are still finding themselves in the running game. The Patriots can confuse defenses more with their two young talented tight ends, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, and have a diverse rushing attack with BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead. That will allow them to steal this one late."
Mike Florio, ProFootballTalk.com: Patriots 38, Chargers 27. "In what could be an AFC championship preview, the winner gets the inside track toward hosting the rematch. The Pats look every bit as unstoppable as they were in the 2010 regular season. Even though the Chargers should run away with the AFC West, the home team could run away with this one - no matter how "lubed up" the fans are, or aren't."
Gregg Rosenthal, ProFootballTalk.com: Patriots 33, Chargers 28. "The Chargers possess the rare defense that can slow Tom Brady down. (San Diego did it last year, but still lost.) Philip Rivers is the rare quarterback that can match Brady throw for throw. Yet I still can't pick against Brady at home coming off his 500-yard bonanza. This mid-September game could loom large during December playoff positioning."
Greg Cote, Miami Herald: Patriots 35, Chargers 27. "AFC heavyweight bout earns GOTW honors. Pats are 9-0 in home openers at Razor Blade Stadium, and Tom Brady has won 28 regular-season home games in a row. No wonder Brady is in a party mood, advising fans to "get lubed up? and loud. I think it's illegal to pick against Pats here, isn't it? I would be arrested. Give San Diego a shot, though. Bolts are really good, and Bill Belichick's record against this opponent is a mortal 6-5. Also worth noting that of the previous 10 quarterbacks to throw for 500 yards in a game, only one topped 300 the next week, so a relatively back-down-to-Earth performance by Brady might be expected."
Peter Schrager, FoxSports.com: Patriots 31, Chargers 26. "It feels like yesterday, but it has been six seasons since LaDainian Tomlinson and Shawne Merriman were insulted by Patriots players doing the "Lights Out" dance on the Chargers' logo following New England's 24-21 divisional round upset victory. Somewhere, a Bolts fan is breaking out in hives, cursing out Marlon McCree and Marty Schottenheimer. Sorry for the flashbacks. The Pats will get the best of San Diego again in this one. No dancing necessary. That includes you, Mr. Ochocino. And, no, I will not make an "Uno Catcho" joke."
USA Today staff: Patriots across the board.
Yahoo! Sports staff: Patriots across the board.
Sam Farmer, Chicago Tribune: Patriots 30, Chargers 27. "Chargers could surprise here - Philip Rivers played well in injury-riddled AFC title game in Foxborough - but it's hard to bet against Tom Brady and midseason form."
It says here: Patriots 35, Chargers 30. Ochocinco grabs the game-winning touchdown from Brady. Ex-Patriots scramble to find a new whipping target.