5 Reasons New England Patriots Fans Should Be Optimistic in 2012

MichaelContributor IIFebruary 23, 2012

5 Reasons New England Patriots Fans Should Be Optimistic in 2012

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    Disappointed. Angry. Second guessing. Hatred.

    These are the feelings racing through every New England fan ever since the Super Bowl defeat to the New York Giants.

    Tom Brady is going to be one year older, the offensive line seems to struggle on the biggest stage and the defense still has many question marks, so no one can blame you, Patriots fans, if you have a negative outlook going into 2012-2013.

    Although the bitterness still lurks in your system, I am here to convince you that the Patriots will be back next season, just as big a threat as the last few seasons.

    Here are five reasons New England Patriots fans should be optimistic going into next season.

Defensive Play

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    Every Patriots fan heard all season how bad their defense was. How they couldn't stop any team in the league.

    Well, to all the "analysts" out there, the New England defense stood tall throughout the playoffs and kept their team in the game against the Giants in the Super Bowl.

    Young players such as Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty came back from injuries and played solid. Although McCourty is known as a cornerback, he looked awfully comfortable in the safety position, while Antwaun Molden and Sterling Moore stepped in nicely throughout the playoffs.

    Although sack machine Andre Carter was absent due to a horrific knee injury, the defense stepped up.

    Veterans Jerod Mayo and Vince Wilfork proved why they are All-Pro caliber players, and unknown gems Rob Ninkovich and Mark Anderson put fear in the opposing offenses.

    Yes, the defense needs work, but this year's Patriots defense redefined the phrase "bend but don't break."

    Oh, and rookie corner Ras-I Dowling, who looked fantastic in his few appearances before season-ending surgery, will be back and most likely starting opposite Kyle Arrington.

Schedule

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    The 2011 season just ended a few weeks ago, and the schedule for next season has yet to be announced, but from the information that has been given, it looks like New England will have an easy NFC division opponent.

    It has been stated by the NFL and ESPN that the Patriots will play the St. Louis Rams in London next season.

    If you aren't sure of the current NFL schedule formula, each conference plays one division from the opposite conference.

    For example, the Patriots played the NFC East this past season for their out-of-conference games.

    If the London game against the Rams is, in fact, true, then New England will play the entire NFC West in 2012.

    The 49ers are a legitimate threat that proved many people wrong last season. But, besides San Francisco, Seattle, Arizona and St. Louis seem look good matchups for the Patriots.

    If New England plays the way it is capable of playing and compete at a high level as expected, the Patriots should come out with three wins at minimum against their NFC West opponents.

Josh McDaniels

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    This could either be a huge factor or a minimal factor, but the addition of former offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is interesting.

    Tom Brady, who looks to be healthy going into next season, put up the best numbers of his phenomenal career with McDaniels as his play-caller.

    If people sit down and dissect Patriots games, they will be able to tell anyone that Brady calls almost every play when he reads the defense at the line of scrimmage.

    But, sometimes it isn't all about giving the plays and watching the outcome. The quarterback-to-coordinator relationship is huge.

    Throughout the season, Bill O'Brien and Brady seemed to butt heads on many occasions. Yes, both guys are passionate and want to win but their "encounters" seemed a tad questionable.

    Both of them played it off as a typical day at the office when confronted about it during press conferences, but there was more to it.

    The relationship with McDaniels always seemed to be smooth and successful. I do not think he is necessarily a better coordinator than O'Brien, but the simple presence of McDaniels seems to suit Tom Brady better.

AFC East Competition

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    Touted as one of the top divisions in football, the AFC East disappointed in 2011.

    Rex Ryan and the New York Jets were a popular pick to win the division and advance far in the playoffs. That went from reality to fantasy world, fast.

    The Buffalo Bills were the shocker around the NFL throughout the first few weeks of the season. After starting the season 5-2, many people jumped on the Buffalo bandwagon.

    Although they had a solid streak of wins, it seemed that the Bills came crashing back to reality and ended the record toward the bottom of the table in the AFC.

    Miami shined at some points and truly were a better team than its record indicated. Reggie Bush proved to be an every-down back, but their quarterback play and defense still seems suspect.

    With the current mess in New York, it looks like the Patriots are the clear favorite to take the AFC East crown, yet again. Also, if the Patriots take care of business, a first-round bye may be in order, which would be clutch for their older veterans.

Tom Brady and Bill Belichick

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    As heartbreaking as the Super Bowl loss to the Giants was, always remember, Patriots fans: having Tom Brady and Bill Belichick is a combination that any team would love to have.

    Five Super Bowl appearances and three victories in 11 seasons together cannot be dismissed by any person.

    The main competition in the AFC this past season seemed to struggle late in big games.

    For Pittsburgh, it is most likely going to lose Hines Ward to retirement and Rashard Mendenhall to knee injury.

    Baltimore is a strong and dangerous team, but its defense continues to age and quarterback Joe Flacco seems to be stuck and cannot get over the hump in the playoffs.

    Other teams such as Houston, San Diego and New York could pose a threat, but with Brady and Belichick, New England looks to be in a good starting position going into 2012.

    Most people questioned Brady's age going into this past season (he'll be 35 in August) and he had an MVP-type year. With targets such as Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and most likely Wes Welker, Brady has the chance to be the top guy for another season.

    If Belichick works with the defense and gets them on a consistent level of performance, then more pressure will be off of Brady and the offense's shoulders.

    Both guys are first-ballot Hall of Famers and, from the words they spoke after the Super Bowl, they want to add to their already impressive resumes.