Outlook for 2009 New England Patriots

Christopher HuntemannContributor IMay 8, 2009

ORCHARD PARK, NY - DECEMBER 28:  Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots walks toward the field before the game against the Buffalo Bills on December 28, 2008 at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)

For being referred to as the NFL’s latest dynasty, the unfortunate truth is that the New England Patriots have not won a Super Bowl since 2005.

They captivated the sports world in 2007 with their historic march to perfection and seemed poised to become the first team since the 1972 Miami Dolphins to finish the season with a nice goose egg in the loss column, had it not been for a certain team from New York with a certain quarterback with a certain famous last name.

But despite all that and despite Tom Brady’s catastrophic knee injury that cost him the entire 2008 season and opened the door for Matt Cassel to make himself a nice chunk of change, the Patriots are once again among the favorites to hoist the Lombardi Trophy at the end of this upcoming season.

Although this might lead me to be excommunicated from the Brotherhood of New England Patriots Fans Worldwide, I do not see a Super Bowl trophy in this team’s immediate future. Don’t get me wrong; I would love nothing more than to see Brady, Belichick and company get ring No. 4 and Brady cement his legacy as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time.

I do expect the Patriots to make a return to the playoffs, but an aging defense and a shaky offensive line will probably continue to make that fourth championship an elusive one for Team Hoodie.

But I could be wrong. I am a lot of things, but a fortuneteller is not one of them. If the Patriots want to return to the Promised Land and finish the job this time, the offensive line has to play better than it did in Super Bowl XLII and during last season.

The New York Giants’ pass rush and the inability of the New England offensive line to slow it down denied New England perfection in 2007. The offensive line’s continued struggles in 2008 led Cassel to take way more sacks than he should have and forced him to scramble around in ways that made him into a poor man’s Donovan McNabb.

For a unit that prided itself on keeping Brady upright for the longest time, the reputation of the New England offensive line has taken a hit recently. The continued reliance on aging veterans like Richard Seymour and Tedy Bruschi may also prove a hindrance also.

Although Belichick started retooling his defense by drafting players like Patrick Chung and Darius Butler, the time will come where he will have to bid a fond farewell to players like Seymour and Bruschi, much like he did with Mike Vrabel after trading the linebacker and Cassel to Kansas City. As much as players like Seymour and Bruschi embody what it means to be a New England Patriot, the unfortunate truth is that they are not the players they once were.

If Seymour, Bruschi and other key Patriot veterans somehow find the Fountain of Youth and if Brady shows he is fully and completely recovered from his knee injury, then there is a good chance the Patriots will lift that silver football for the fourth time. But for now the road to Super Bowl XLIV goes through Pittsburgh, a place the Patriots know all too well.