After a mixed bag in the first half of the season, it’s time to look ahead to the second half and what the future holds in store for the very talented but underachieving Patriots.
The Bills game alone probably is not the greatest litmus test, but there are some indicators. Most picked the Patriots to win this one at home, but the way they won is troubling. Up by six with less than two minutes and the Bills driving, I think every Patriots fan thought “Here we go again…” but McCourty made the pick and preserved the victory.
This might be an indicator of things to come in the second half of the season. The Patriots were the early pick for Super Bowl favorites during the preseason. A few losses later, and New England is now considered a Dark Horse to reach the big dance.
The second half of the season features matchups versus three teams with winning records. All three are home games and two of the teams are from warm weather climates. This is usually good for at least one to two wins a year based on opposing teams coming into tough climates or hostile environments.
The rest are divisional games and a Jaguars game in Jacksonville. The schedule comes together nicely and a potential three-game winning streak heading into the playoffs sets the Patriots up to make a strong run. All of this depends on how well the defense comes together and how healthy the three-headed receiving monster of Welker, Gronkowski and Hernandez are.
When considering all of this, the second half of the season looks like we can expect another division championship.
Individually, we can expect some good performances and some sub-par performances. Expect to see Tom Brady continue to put up 300-yard, two-touchdown games and limiting the turnovers. We can also expect to see Wes Welker near or at the top of most statistical receiving categories other than touchdowns. Look for Steven Ridley to rack up about 1,300 yards rushing, and Rob Gronkowski to haul in about 80 catches for 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns.
We can probably count on Brandon Lloyd to come in with around 1,000 yards, but never really giving the Patriots the big plays they expected. We can also anticipate more pressure from teams with a strong front four against a sub-par and injured New England offensive line.
Defensively, keep an eye on Aqib Talib to step into a starting corner position and make some great plays. Chandler Jones will almost certainly finish the season with double-digit sacks, and Vince Wilfork is looking primed to make a return to the Pro Bowl.
We can expect to see Stephen Gotskowski win a game by last-second field goals. We can expect the Pats to lead the league in points scored. We can expect the defense to rank near the bottom of the league. We can expect the Patriots to lose at least one game by three points or less. We can also expect the Pats to blow one late fourth quarter lead.
We can expect an 11-5 season with a first-round bye, but a stronger sense of urgency once the playoffs come around.
We can expect the Patriots to play in the AFC Championship game.
What more can we expect? We’ll see when the second half of the season is over.