New England's 2009/10 Season: The AFC Can't Hang With This

Mat CroninContributor ISeptember 2, 2009

FOXBORO, MA - AUGUST 20:  Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots talks with Pat Chung #25 and Brandon McGowan #30 against the Cincinnati Bengals during their preseason game at Gillette Stadium on August 20, 2009 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

These new defenders have fresh legs and are eager to stick their face-mask in the chest of offensive players across the league.  The names Chung, Bodden, Butler, and Springs are all new to New England and will provide enough stopping power in the defensive backfield for the offense to outscore the other team. 

That's the beauty of being a Patriots defender; with the return of Tom Brady and the best passing offense in the game, the defense must only slow the opposition down enough for the offensive Brady Bunch to outscore. 

The addition of Fred Taylor to an already above average group of running backs (Maroney, Morris, Green-Ellis, and Faulk) gives New England’s ground attack more than enough power to compliment Brady's passing game.  Maroney should know this is his last year to prove himself in New England, and if he is as good as we all once thought, then he should have a stellar year.  Sammy Morris did a great job last season taking hand-offs from Matt Cassel when injuries plagued the team.  Eventually Morris went down himself, and Green-Ellis did a great job as a stand in. 

New England's schedule for the 2009/2010 season is a tough one on paper; however, they should have no problem establishing AFC East dominance out of the gate.  By the time Brady runs into arch rival Peyton Manning and the Colts in November, New England's record should be at least 7-1.  Almost guaranteed victories include the Bills in Week 1, the Jets Week 2, Broncos Week 5, Tampa Bay Week 7, and Dolphins Week 9.  The Jets' offense is too slow to keep up with New England (regardless of who wins the quarterback battle there), Terrell Owens and the Bills won't come close (especially without Lynch in the game), and you can bet New England wants to make a statement to the Dolphins and their Wildcat offense.   

Games that will test the team, but should still be victories, are against the Falcons Week 3, and Titans Week 6.  Matt Ryan is a great quarterback, but he will have the same problem as most teams who face New England—he can't score quick enough to keep up.  Tennessee has been a solid team in the past few years, but I can't see Collins or Young being able to keep up, and their running game isn't fast enough to score as many points as they will need.  The one game New England has the greatest possibility of losing is against the Ravens in Week 4; however, there is still a chance they head to Indianapolis undefeated.  It depends on the production of Joe Flacco and if Willis McGahee is healthy. 

The Colts game, in years past, has always been a battle for AFC dominance.  Since New England doesn't play Pittsburgh this season, the Colts will be their major AFC test (Tennessee may have a good record, but they won't be a factor after the regular season). 

In addition to the AFC East, the Saints, Panthers, Jaguars, and Texans will wrap up the regular season for New England.  The only major worry here is the passing attack of Drew Brees, who may be able to find a way around the Patriots defensive secondary.  Maurice Jones-Drew is too small to carry the Jaguars to victory against New England, and David Garrard (although he has been known to make plays late in the season) won't be able to keep up with Brady.  It's hard to say how the Panthers will look, but on paper they shouldn't be a problem.  Houston will wrap up the regular season, and even though they will be a much better team than they were last year, won't be a problem for New England (if all goes to plan, the outcome of this game shouldn't affect New England’s playoff hopes anyway).  

The Patriots should win 15 games during the regular season and head to the Super Bowl.  Their one loss could be against a few AFC teams, however, the only team I can see giving them trouble is the Ravens, as they will be New England's first taste of a real football team.