The New England Patriots are always one of the most statistically dominant teams in the NFL—especially on offense—but this year, with turnover at both the wide receiver and tight end positions, it's tough to know who's going to be catching the bulk of Tom Brady's passes.
In the offensive backfield, Stevan Ridley will be looking to build upon his 1,200-yard sophomore season, while Shane Vereen will be elevated to become the Patriots primary passing-down weapon. Both players looked outstanding through the preseason—except of course during the Lions game, which we're not counting.
Defensively, the Patriots always seem to be near the top of the NFL in forcing turnovers, while also giving up a lot of yards and hovering below the league average in sacks. The result has often been a high number of tackles for the secondary.
The complexion of the Pats didn't change much from 2007 to 2012, but will this year be more of the same, or will the turnover on offense and continuity on defense force both units to regress toward the mean?
Here's our player-by-player stat predictions for what will unfold for the Pats in 2013.
588 attempts, 365 completions, 62% completion, 4,200 yards, 30 TDs, 13 interceptions
With an entire new set of receivers, Brady's numbers should drop off a bit from recent seasons. Expect less attempts as the team leans on the running game a little more, a dip in completion percentages as the new receivers figure out which routes to run, and a couple more interceptions on top of both of those predictions.
Still, Brady has looked like he hasn't missed a beat this preseason, and he should continue his trend of elite play.
Here are Brady's career stats for comparison.
300 carries, 1,350 yards, nine TDs
Ridley should see a few more carries than he did last year, but don't expect him to see much action as a pass-catcher. With less hurry-up in the offense, there might not be as many chances to carry the ball against unprepared defenses. Regardless, Tom Brady will always put the offense in position to succeed, and Ridley should have a big season as a result.
85 carries, 350 yards, three rushing TDs; 40 catches, 500 yards, three receiving TDs
Vereen will be the primary passing-down back and should help break in the new receiving corps. He could turn out to be one of the biggest weapons the Patriots have this season. Heading into the start of the season, he is the biggest X-factor for the offense.
Brandon Bolden/LeGarrette Blount
75 carries, 280 yards, five TDs; 10 catches, 140 yards, one TD
Bolden and Blount remain in a tight position battle, but both should either combine or individually put up the kind of numbers above. One (or both) will be the short-yardage back(s) and pick up a handful of touchdowns. There's definitely an argument to be made for keeping both.
30 carries, 180 yards, one TD; 15 catches, 200 yards, two TDs
Washington should get some spot duty, especially on passing downs. If Vereen gets hurt at all, Washington could find himself being a central figure in the Pats' attack. Otherwise, his primary contributions will be returning kicks.
100 receptions, 1,100 yards, eight TDs
Amendola might not record as many catches as Welker usually did, but he should put up more yards given his explosiveness. He's already demonstrated some chemistry with Brady, and he should be the Pats most reliable receiver, even though he's sure to garner plenty of attention from defenses.
40 receptions, 450 yards, three TDs
Thompkins should be a solid possession receiver with some size to pick up yards after the catch. He might not be much of a red zone target, but he will get his chances. If he can continue to get open like he has in training camp and the preseason, Brady will get him the ball.
30 receptions, 480 yards, six TDs
Dobson will catch some deep balls and be a solid red zone target. His ability to go up and get the ball is something the Pats haven't seen since the days of Randy Moss. He could have more receiving touchdowns than any other receiver on the roster.
15 receptions, 300 yards, two TDs
Boyce should have some long catches in spot duty, especially up the seam, while playing a role reminiscent of Donte Stallworth's in 2007. He'll give the Pats some explosion in the middle of the depth chart.
10 receptions, 200 yards, one TD
Barring an Amendola injury, Edelman shouldn't see much time on the field, but he is a suitable fill-in slot receiver and should have some catches here and there. However, he's one injury away from having a significant role.
40 catches, 500 yards, six TDs
Sudfeld will get his chances early in the season before Gronk returns and should chip in with some offensive output. He'll be used in the Aaron Hernandez role, and though he lacks Hernandez' cutback ability, he has more size and should be a better red-zone target.
35 catches, 450 yards, five TDs
We're penciling Gronk in to return after the team's bye in Week 10 and play seven games. He won't be the player he was in previous years, but he should pick up steam toward the end and pick up five-to-seven catches per game.
20 catches, 200 yards, two TDs
Ballard isn't Gronk, but he will have a couple catches per game as a safety valve. He had 38 catches in 2011 with the Giants, but he's not back to that level yet and will be used more for his blocking ability in 2013.
10 catches, 100 yards, one TD
Fells will be used primarily as an H-back and reserve tight end. Once Gronk returns, he won't see much action.
50 tackles, 10 sacks, three forced fumbles
Jones has looked unstoppable this preseason and seems primed to elevate his game into the conversation of elite defensive ends. His athleticism and length make him a useful tool on the edge of Bill Belichick's defense, but he'll have a variety of responsibilities and likely won't put up any record-breaking stats. Though by Patriots' read-and-react standards, he'll be dominant.
60 tackles, five sacks, five forced fumbles
Ninkovich has steadily improved in his four seasons with the Pats and is hitting a contract year where he'll be a big part of the defense. He's had moments of inconsistency but always seems to come through in the clutch. His sack and forced fumble numbers will be solid.
25 tackles, four sacks, two forced fumbles
Benard looks like a lock to be the third defensive end and likely a designated pass-rusher, so he will have his chances to get after the quarterback. Expect a big season out of him on passing downs.
25 tackles, two sacks
Depth at defensive end is a little thin for the Patriots, meaning second-year player Justin Francis will be counted on to pick up some quality snaps in order to give Ninkovich and Jones a breather.
Cunningham remains sidelined with an injury, but his experience and ability to play a number of spots could garner him some game action. He could return to an interior-rusher role, or end up at defensive end should Jones or Ninkovich get hurt.
45 tackles, two sacks, three forced fumbles
Wilfork is the key cog of the New England defense, and he has transformed himself into a three-down defensive lineman. He'll never have the gaudy stats, but no player is more valuable on this roster. It just doesn't always show up on the stat sheet.
40 tackles, four sacks, two forced fumbles
Kelly will really help make things easier on Wilfork. He's the best interior tackle the Pats have had next to Wilfork since 2009, and he should ease some of the double teams Wilfork usually draws. He should also make an impact on passing downs with his ability to push the pocket.
15 tackles, one sack
Forston has looked like a serviceable backup in the preseason, but due to the lack of depth along the interior line, he could be find himself as the first defensive tackle off the bench to sub Wilfork or Kelly.
20 tackles, two sacks
Armstead remains on the PUP list after surgery to eradicate an infection, and there is still no timetable for his return. Still, when he does return, he could see significant action, especially on obvious passing downs. He was expected to be a top interior sub-rusher this year before training camp.
130 tackles, three sacks, two forced fumbles, six passes defensed, one interception
Mayo will once again be the leader of the Patriots' defense, as he will be the one responsible for making the calls and getting everyone in position. He should be on the field for over 95 percent of the snaps and be near the NFL-lead in tackles by season's end. The key for Mayo? Being better in pass coverage and beating his career-best five passes defensed.
75 tackles, four sacks, five forced fumbles
Hightower could see an expanded role this season playing both strong-side and middle linebacker. The biggest question is how much he'll be used as a pass-rusher, a role he played in college. Expect Bill Belichick to use him in a number of different ways that will have him around the ball a lot.
80 tackles, two sacks, five forced fumbles
Spikes could see a decrease in playing time this year and may be unlikely to top the 92 tackles he recorded last season. He'll still cause a fair share of forced fumbles and, after a two-sack performance against the Bucs in the preseason, it looks like he might be sent after the quarterback a little more this year as well.
40 tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles, two interceptions, 10 passes defensed
Collins is most likely to be used primarily as a coverage linebacker but has the athleticism to eventually be used as a pass-rusher as well. Expect him to make plays in coverage, especially in forcing fumbles, something he's done consistently in camp.
25 tackles, one interception, four passes defensed
Fletcher is fully recovered from last season's ACL tear and could be a useful tool for specialty assignments like he has in the past. He moves and tackles well. There should be a spot for him.
30 tackles, nine interceptions, 13 passes defensed
Talib is in a "prove-it" year, and so far in camp and preseason, he's been proving it. He looks primed to have a stellar season and should do well locking down the opponents top receiver. With New England's secondary having a shaky reputation, he should still get plenty of balls thrown his way.
55 tackles, four interceptions, 10 passes defensed
Arrington will play both inside and outside of the defense this season. Though he might not return to his 2011 form—when he tied for the NFL lead in interceptions—he will likely be the Pats' most targeted cornerback.
30 tackles, two interceptions, eight passes defensed
Dennard is likely to miss a few games due to suspension, but he should slip back into the starting lineup once he returns and is healthy. He looked outstanding in camp prior to getting injured. His return will allow Arrington to shift back to his most effective position (the slot), and both players should benefit.
20 tackles, one interception, four passes defensed
Ryan will be thrown into the fire immediately and is likely to be New England's third cornerback when they open the season. He's physical and can play inside or outside, but he will likely be managed behind Talib and Arrington until Dennard returns.
10 tackles, two passes defensed
Cole is likely to see about as much action this year as he did last season, and with similar stat lines. He'll play in the slot and could get his hands on a couple interception if he sees enough time.
60 tackles, five interceptions, 15 passes defensed
McCourty could have a breakout year if he's able to play safety full time. With an entire offseason to focus on the position and decent potential for whoever is starting next to him, he'll quarterback the backend of the defense while picking off and defending his fair share of passes.
35 tackles, two forced fumbles, three passes defensed
Adrian Wilson is the favorite to start on early downs next to McCourty and should make his living in the middle of the field where he'll make plenty of plays. Don't expect him to make much of impact in the passing game, though.
25 tackles, two interceptions, six passes defensed
Harmon could emerge as the best backend safety option next to McCourty this season, a surprise for the surprising third-round pick. He's shown good range in the preseason and should be headed up the depth chart as he gets more experience.
20 tackles, one interception, three passes defensed
Gregory is likely to be kept around as insurance for Harmon and Tavon Wilson, but if his inconsistencies of 2012 continue, he could slowly find himself out of a job.
10 tackles, one pass defensed
Tavon Wilson has had a quiet training camp, and while it's too early to give up on the 2012 second-rounder, he'll likely spend this year backing up Adrian Wilson at strong safety and contributing on special teams.
Stephen Gostkowski - Kicker
38 FGA, 31 FGM, 82.3 percent
Gostkowski has had his struggles this preseason, and the sting of his potential game-winning kick that missed against the Cardinals last season still lingers. Still, he's one of the most consistent outdoor kickers in the game and should have a bounce-back season.
Zoltan Mesko - Punter
65 punts, 2,873 yards, 44.2 average
Mesko is facing good competition from Ryan Allen this preseason and it should only bring out the best in him. Expect the best season of his three-year career, punting both with touch and distance.
Leon Washington - Kickoff Returner
34 kicks returned, 890 yards, 26.2 yards/return, two touchdowns
The Patriots have lacked an explosive kick returner since Brandon Tate in the first half of 2011, but Washington has been one of the best in the history of the NFL. He should make an instant impact and improve one of the team's most glaring areas of weakness.
Julian Edelman - Punt Returner
35 punts returned, 574 yards, 16.4 yards/return, two touchdowns
Edelman is one of the most shifty and creative punt returners in the game, and the only key for him will be staying healthy. If he can do that, he could shine as one of the best in the game.