2008 was a bad year for the Patriots. After losing the Super Bowl in February, they lost their star quarterback in the first quarter of the first game, and depended on Matt Cassel to create the plays. And hey, he didn't do a half bad job. The Patriots went 11-5 and were easily deserving of a spot in the playoffs (the Chargers go in with an 8-8, record, although they did beat the Patriots convincingly).
Unfortunately, they were placed in probably the toughest division in the NFL. They can only look forward to next year, and by comparison, it won't be any easier. Brady is no certainty to return for the start of the season, having had another operation on his busted knee. At almost 32, he doesn't have many years left, or should I say, many years of top class form.
Without him, the Patriots lack that edge that made other teams crap themselves when they saw that offense march out onto the field. Sure, they have a great offensive line and some awesome wide receivers, but what's the use of all that if there is no one to lead what should be the best passing offense in the NFL?
The upside of course, is the draft. Having not made the playoffs, the Patriots will be able to have more of a choice when it comes to draft pick. I for one would expect the Patriots to draft a good linebacker and/or cornerback, however this will not yield instant results. Cornerbacks generally take a few years to mature and start to peak in the NFL.
This year, it has been their defense that has let them down. With an injury plagued team of linebackers and cornerbacks that were way below par, it will be really interesting to see just how the Patriots play in 2009/2010.