The New England Patriots lost. And to the rest of the country, it was a good day in Indy, but to the fans in and around Boston, the irrational distress and pain they feel is almost unbearable. The thought of losing to the Giants again is surreal. But there’s hope.
Sure, Brady was average against many top-tier teams all season, losing to the Giants and Steelers in the middle of the season, as well as dropping one early to a Buffalo team who snuck up on teams early but fell back to the pack. But he had a very good year passing for 5235 yards, 39 TDs and finishing with a 105.6 passer rating the regular season. He’ll only get stronger this offseason.
The Patriots finished with the best record in the AFC and its attendant No. 1 seed while blasting their divisional competition, finishing 5-1. Additionally, Brady lead them to a league second best in passing yards with 317.8 per game and they have a very solid running game for years to come if BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who hasn’t fumbled in his four years as a pro, can stay healthy.
Green-Ellis is an unrestricted free agent, along with Wes Welker, but chances are better than good that he’ll be in New England next season.
The Patriots are favored to return to the Super Bowl next year for numerous reasons, not least of which is their favorable schedule. They, of course, have head-to-heads against division foes Miami, Buffalo and the New York Jets, all three to start out the season. Other teams on New England's schedule who the Patriots beat, or who struggled in 2011, are Jacksonville, Tennessee, Arizona, St. Louis and Seattle all on the road and Denver at home.
The Patriots are 7.25-to-1 to win the Super Bowl next season but should be higher, and are ahead of the Packers, who are 6.25-to-1 according to bankrollsports.com.
The Pats boast four draft picks in the first two rounds next year, so look for them to stock up on defense and most importantly pull a star receiver to catch balls for Brady. A legitimate long-ball man who will stretch the field like Randy Moss did in his prime will be the missing link for an already high-powered offense. Rob Gronkowski, Deion Branch and others could be brought back to fill in the holes of a team that was a play or two away from winning it all.
The biggest fact that should salve Bostonian’s Super Bowl wounds is their star quarterback’s drive for getting even. As we all learned from the Princess Bride to “never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line,” the country should be well aware of the lesser known, but just as true, axiom, “never bet against Brady when revenge is on the line.”
Unlike many other seasons, the beginning of the 2012 campaign will see him healthy. Additionally, at age 35 when the season starts, he has to be hearing the footsteps of football’s grim reaper getting closer and so will find the focus many men find when pressed with that reality.
More than anything else, though, his wife has been pulled into the conflict with fans across the country, and especially haters in New York, piling on. Brady’s drive and focus will be more personal and so more pronounced than in any other season.
Super Bowl XLVI was a game of precision more than most, where two or three dropped passes, were difference between the a Patriots parade, or coming home in defeat. With the help of a top-tier deep threat and key talent in the defensive backfield, there’s no reason to think they won't be back and that the outcome will be different next year.