For Patriots fans, this sort of prediction is familiar. It seems like this team is always primed to seize the crown "next time."
The problem is/ the Patriots constantly undermine their own potential by repeating the same fatal trends, over and over.
Chief among these trends is their tendency to play their best football in the regular season and their worst in the playoffs.
In 2007, when the Patriots went from scoring 36.8 points per game to scoring a measly 14 points in Super Bowl XLII, that was a major red flag. It was evidence of an ugly offensive shortcoming bubbling beneath the surface.
In 2011, when they lost Super Bowl XLVI to an opposing quarterback who only threw one touchdown, familiar red flags emerged in regard to their offensive durability and physical prowess. During the game, reading New England's body language, you could almost hear them say, "There's always next year."
Flash forward to "next year."
Again, the Patriots dominated the regular season. Then, like clockwork, they began the 2012 AFC Championship looking scattered, lethargic, unfocused and weak. They collapsed in such a profound manner and didn't even score in the second half.
These trends must change in 2013.
Accountability must be of the utmost importance.
Tom Brady needs to play better in the playoffs. It hurts to say, but some tough love could be helpful here. The postseason used to be the stage where he shined brightest. He needs to get that fire and brimstone in his belly again.
Bill Belichick needs some tough love, too. He used to be the smartest kid in the class, but now, he's a smart cookie in a sea of smart cookies. He's surrounded by coaches who have learned from him and, in some cases, learned to outsmart him.
Greater competition means Belichick needs to be, well, greater.
And there's more.
The Patriots need a stronger pass rush to shorten the "window of decision" that quarterbacks like Joe Flacco and Eli Manning rely on. They need quicker, meaner defensive backs to prevent dynamic quarterbacks like Russell Wilson from throwing three touchdowns and no interceptions (as he did in Week 6 against New England).
The Patriots need an offense with more durability, one that can carry them through the postseason. They need to play better situational football and acquire healthy prospects in free agency and in the NFL Draft. They need to start playing their best football in the playoffs. They need to get rougher and tougher.
Last but not least, they need to re-sign these four free agents over the offseason.