New England Patriots: 5 Reasons Tom Brady and Crew Are Still Favorites in 2012

Justin KeithCorrespondent IMarch 19, 2012

New England Patriots: 5 Reasons Tom Brady and Crew Are Still Favorites in 2012

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    After a stinging loss to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLVI, the New England Patriots have spent this offseason looking for ways to improve a team that was just minutes away from its fourth Super Bowl victory.

    Whether through the draft or through free agency, the Patriots will look to add talented pieces that will help them get back to the promised land.

    However, they still have all of the talent that got to the brink of Super Bowl greatness this year and don't need to make any big splashes to repeat at AFC champions.

    Here are five reasons why the Patriots are good enough to be still be considered among the Super Bowl favorites.

Brandon Lloyd

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    Although the Patriots' offense was among the best in the league in 2011, it still lacked one thing: a deep threat at wide receiver.

    The Patriots addressed this weakness this weekend by signing Brandon Lloyd to a three-year, $12 million contract.

    Lloyd has played for the Denver Broncos and St. Louis Rams during the past two seasons, and both offenses were run under Josh McDaniels. His familiarity with McDaniels will lead to an easy transition into the Pats' offense and will add firepower to an offense that already includes receiving options Rob Gronkowski, Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez.

    The Patriots' offense is now completely balanced and that only spells trouble for the rest of the league.

Weaker AFC

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    While the NFC continues to get stronger, the AFC saw a drop-off in championship-caliber teams in 2011.

    The Patriots had a great offense but little to no defense. The Ravens had a great defense but an inconsistent quarterback. The Texans proved to be too inexperienced.

    No team was able to separate and assert itself as dominant in the AFC, making for a wide-open 2012 season as well.

    Although Peyton Manning could be back into the picture in the AFC next year, the NFC boasts many top quarterbacks in the league. Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Eli Manning all reside in the NFC and play on teams that have a legit chance of winning a Super Bowl.

    For many years, the AFC had been the dominant league, but now we are seeing a shift in power and the AFC can be won by any number of teams.

Experience

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    No quarterback-coach tandem has more Super Bowl appearances in the league than Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. The Hall of Fame-bound pair have enjoyed five Super Bowls with each other and know what it takes to get back.

    Although not many players on the active roster have experienced a Super Bowl title, the leadership Belichick and Brady can provide down the stretch and in the playoffs is unmeasurable.

    With a younger defense, Belichick must mentor and teach them everything he has accumulated over his illustrious career.

    A year after a Super Bowl run, the Patriots' roster will mostly be intact, meaning most of the players will have had the experience of winning in January—an advantage New England certainly has over a lot of the league.

Stability in the Secondary

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    It is no secret the worst part of the Patriots' defense in 2011 was the secondary. However, much of the failures in the secondary can be attributed to injuries and lack of talented personnel.

    The Patriots will not let the latter be an issue in 2012.

    The secondary will certainly be addressed through free agency and the draft, and it will also be boosted by the return of Ras-I Dowling. Dowling was a high second-round pick of the Patriots a season ago but was lost for the entirety of the 2011 season due to injury.

    If Dowling can come back and prove his worth, the cornerback position will be solid with Kyle Arrington, Devin McCourty, Sterling Moore and Dowling.

    The safety position will also be better, as the Patriots have added Steve Gregory and are exploring the idea of Laron Landry to complement Patrick Chung.

Tom Terrific

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    Is there anything that Tom Brady cannot do?

    When he had no talent at wide out, he won Super Bowls. When he had one of the greatest wide receivers of all time, he set records. Any roster is an instant contender once Tom Brady is added to it. He is the straw that stirs the drink in New England.

    Brady, one of the best quarterbacks of all time, is coming off a season in which he passed for more 5,000 yards, the most of his career.

    Brady also has a complete arsenal of weapons as his disposal, creating a perfect situation in which to put up monster numbers again in 2012.

    As long as Brady is under center in New England, the Patriots will always be considered a favorite in the AFC.