The New England Patriots will have a whole lot of pressure on them for the 2012 NFL season.
After a magnificent 2011 season that ended in a heartbreaking Super Bowl loss to the Giants, the Patriots made a slew of moves that launched them to the top of the list of favorites for Super Bowl XLVII. Whatever holes were revealed over the course of the 2011 season were fixed via free agency or the draft. This leaves Patriots fans looking forward to the start of the season more than ever.
New England has the potential to blow by their competition—that's how good this team is. With a prolific offense and a revamped defense, the Patriots are talented enough to win every game they play. It's unlikely, but it's certainly possible.
The Patriots got the biggest steal in free agency, signing elite wide receiver Brandon Lloyd to a three-year, $12 million deal. $12 million! Lloyd gives the Patriots a deep threat that they haven't had since Randy Moss. The Pats played through all of last year without a legitimate stretch-the-field wideout.
Patriots tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez both enjoyed breakout seasons, with Gronkowski setting the record for yards and touchdowns by a tight end. The Boston TE Party combined for over 2,000 yards and 25 touchdowns. Both of the young tight ends will look to continue their immense success this year. The Pats signed Daniel Fells and Brad Herman to add depth to the position. There were also rumors that Dallas Clark visited the New England facilities.
The Patriots signed some good defensive role players (Jonathan Fanene, Trevor Scott, Steve Gregory) during free agency, but they exploded in the draft, using all but one of their picks on defensive players. The Pats traded up twice to snag studs DE Chandler Jones and LB Dont'a Hightower. Tavon Wilson, Jake Bequette, Nate Ebner and Alfonzo Dennard were among the other draftees who were taken in order to improve the 31st-ranked defense in 2011.
The Patriots were granted the easiest schedule (record-wise) in 2012. The only games that could be potentially dangerous are against San Francisco, Denver and two against new-look Buffalo. However, three of those games are at home, where the Patriots are near unbeatable.
In Super Bowl XLVI, the Pats were one or two plays away from winning the Lombardi Trophy. With a defense nicknamed "The Who" because of all the no-name players, this is quite remarkable. The offense, captained by Tom Brady, led the Pats through the season to a 13-3 record, a first-round bye and, eventually, the Super Bowl.
The Patriots blew through most of their competition in 2011, so they'll be expected to bulldoze over opponents in 2012 with a better defense and, believe it or not, a better offense.
This year's Patriots have put together a team that should be penciled in as Super Bowl champs. With the talent and experiences on this team, anything but the Lombardi Trophy will be a tremendous letdown.