The 2007 New England Patriots finished the regular season with an extraordinary record of 16-0. Not only had the Patriots won every game, becoming the first team to go 16-0 and the first undefeated season since the 1972 Miami Dolphins, but they slaughtered their competition in almost every "contest."
Although their undefeated season came to an end with a shocking loss to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII, the team had made an historic run and appeared to be the front runners going into the 2008 NFL Season.
Fast forward to September 7, 2008, when the NFL world and Patriots fans held their breath as the two-time Super Bowl MVP lay on the ground clutching his knee in pain. The unthinkable became a reality as the almighty poster boy of the NFL, Tom Brady, was carried off the field and later placed on injured reserve, ending his season.
The Patriots, under the inexperienced yet impressive Matt Cassel, finished the season 11-5 but missed the playoffs. Cassel thrived under then offensive coordinator Josh McDaniel's system, throwing for 3,693 yards and 21 touchdowns, leaving the Patriots with a sufficient backup plan if Tom Brady wasn't 100 percent for the upcoming season.
Matt Cassell was traded from the Patriots to the Kansas City Chiefs for a second round pick in the NFL draft. Did this mean New England and Bill Belichick had enough confidence that Tom Brady will be fully healed and ready to go for the 2009 season?
The Patriots must be sold on Brady's progress because backups Kevin O'Connell and Matt Gutierrez have attempted seven passes combined. At least Matt Cassel had 39 career attempts going into the season, right?
So the question we are all wondering; is Tom Brady ready to step out on the field and play at a competitive level? Word out of New England is Brady has been practicing without any restrictions and moving without any problems. The Patriots say he will be the same Tom Brady he was before the injury, but I'm not so sure I believe he is 100 percent.
The preseason power rankings are already popping up everywhere, with the Patriots claiming the top spot in most of them. They have added weapons on offense in running back Fred Taylor, tight end Alex Smith, and wide receiver's Greg Lewis and Joey Galloway.
They have also used three second round picks on the defensive side of the ball, in addition to signing CBs Bodden and Springs, but is this enough to be given the top spot in the rankings?
The problem; Super Bowls are not won in the offseason and has anyone seen Tom Brady play in a live game yet? Does adding seven aging veterans and a few rookies to your roster automatically make you the favorite for Super Bowl XLIV? I don't think so.
The rest of the AFC East will not lay down and let Brady and the Patriots go back to their division winning ways. Last year's division winning Miami Dolphins are bringing back much of the same team with the primary addition of Jason Taylor and rookie Vontae Davis.
The Jets and Bills believe they have added the necessary playmakers (see Mark Sanchez and some guy who goes by T.O.?) to push their teams into the playoffs. Even if Tom Brady is near his top form, the rest of the division will not go quietly like years past.
I never want to see an injury hurt a player's legacy, but Brady has much to prove this upcoming season. Will he return to his Pro-Bowl MVP form or will he join the ranks of mediocrity?
All eyes are on Tom Brady to perform this season but the crown shouldn't be handed to the Patriots just yet, because Brady has much to prove this season.
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