New England Patriots Season Preview

Paul SalmanSenior Analyst ISeptember 13, 2009

From Necessary Roughness

A first on the site, I have a guest writer who would like to contribute his thoughts on his New England Patriots. Here is an in-depth 2009 season preview for the New England Patriots.

With the 2009 NFL football season upon us, it is time to reflect on the offseason and look forward to the games that count. It has been a roller coaster offseason for the New England Patriots; more so than any offseason in recent memory.

Of course all eyes were on the recovery of the great Tom Brady, but given his work ethic and the fact that he had nearly a full 12 months to recover from a restructured ACL and MCL (actually, that is the assumption, as the Patriots have never announced the true nature of the injury), there was not a great deal of concern regarding his getting back to the field. He came back, and played in three pre-season games that were important for him to shake off rust, and develop a pocket presence again.

The more pressing question was how Bill Belichick was going to reshape his defensive secondary and the defense in general. 2008 was a horrific year for the Patriots defense, allowing teams to score and gain yards in crucial situations.

The highlight was Jerod Mayo, who won Defensive Rookie of the Year and spent his offseason in Foxboro trying to improve himself. Another highlight was the emergence of Gary Guyton, a speedy linebacker who found himself playing a lot of minutes. Despite spending two draft picks (Terrence Wheatley and Jonathan Wilhite), Belichick still felt that more competition was needed in the secondary. As a result he drafted CB Darius Butler out of UConn in the second round, Safety Pat Chung in the second round as well, and signed veterans Leigh Bodden and Shawn Springs.

Although the defense has been morphing into a younger and faster group, there has been a great deal of leadership lost. Tedy Bruschi retired after 13 seasons with the Patriots, Bruschi hung up his cleats and has moved on to a position with His leadership and instinctive nature will be sorely missed, along with everything that Rodney Harrison brought to the Patriots. These two represented the best of the best at their position, and in terms of leadership on the field and in the locker room.

Another leader was traded in a shocking move when Richard Seymour, a staple on the defensive line for 8 seasons, was traded to the Black Hole for a 2011 first round draft choice. These three players have groomed others such as Brandon Meriwether, James Sanders, Jerod Mayo and Ty Warren into leaders and all of their efforts will be needed this year.

The defense will be a work in progress, a unit that will need to take practices very seriously and be committed to improving as the season progresses. The Patriots will be employing more 4-3 defensive sets to take advantage of their depth on the defensive line, despite the loss of Big Sey. The success of the Patriots will hinge on the ability of the defense to get off the field in big spots, and give up few points than they have given the last few years. Bill Belichick is not concerned with the amount of yards the opposition gains, but how many points they score.

As for the offense, it should remain a high powered group. Randy Moss and Wes Welker lead a group that now includes veteran Joey Galloway, and rookie Julian Edelman who impressed in the preseason. With Brady back in command, the passing game should remain vertical, certainly more vertical than last year where Matt Cassell struggled at times, despite his exceptional overall performance.

The offensive line returns its core and should remain a strength, and with upgrades at RB (Fred Taylor, and the return of Laurence Maroney from injury), and TE (Chris Baker), the offense seems poised to carry this team as its defense gets up to speed. However, the Patriots will be tested in all phases of the game early and often, going up against the NFC and AFC South this year. So execution and the establishment of a bruising running attack will be vital to control the clock and keep its defense fresh.

With that said, lets take a look at each opponent and how I think the New England Patriots will fare against each. Please remember, this is strictly my opinion:

Week 1 – Buffalo Bills

The Bills will test the Patriots secondary with wide receivers Terrell Owens, Lee Evans and Josh Reed. These three pose a significant challenge as they are all veterans that command attention, so it will be interesting to see how the Patriots manage this situation. Questions remain on the Buffalo offensive line and how they will establish a running attack, but Trent Edwards has shown promise in his first few years in the league. He may look to check down more than often, but a check down is probably more desirable than throwing into double and triple coverage. There has been a lot of turmoil in Buffalo recently, but they still bring one of the best special teams units to Foxboro and a defense that continues to develop into one of the better units. In the end, New England is able to control the line of scrimmage, and ultimately control the game. New England wins 28-17.

Week 2 - @ NYJ

Rex Ryan has been getting a lot of crap for his words off the field. Although I don’t feel they were very disrespectful in nature, there is really no point in saying what he said. Maybe it will fire up his team, maybe he is trying to make himself feel better about himself. After all, these are the Jets, this is what they do. Despite the words, the Jets have a pretty good team on both sides of the ball. The question remains at QB where highly touted Mark Sanchez won the starting job. The Jets will go as far as he carries them, but on this day, the Patriots are able to exploit a team that is still learning a new system and a team that will surely improve as the season progresses. The Jets will try and expose the Patriots secondary, but New England will game plan to confuse the rookie, leading to a couple of picks. Look for the New England running game to really shine on this day. New England wins 31-13.

Week 3 – Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons come to Foxboro with a lot of confidence and one of the rising teams and franchises in the NFL. Can’t help but to feel good for the fans and Arthur Blank after the Vick fiasco. Matt Ryan was spectacular as a rookie and with Tony Gonzalez in the fold now, looks to continue to improve. This offense will give the Patriots defense their biggest test of the young season, as they must account for the explosive Roddy White, Michael Turner and Tony Gonzalez. Defensively the Falcons are still dealing with some turnover and this area remains and unknown for them. Look for a shootout that ultimately New England pulls out 38-35.

Week 4 – Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens lost their defensive coordinator and a couple of key players from their defense, but still have one of the nastiest, most physical defensive clubs in the NFL. A great test for the Patriots offense, and a game that is important to both teams who have playoff aspirations. The Baltimore offense was extremely efficient last year with Joe Flacco, and look to take the next step with him and Ray Rice at RB. New England’s offensive line will be crucial in this game, as protecting Tom Brady is the key to victory in this game. This should turn out to be the most physical game of the season to this point, and one that the Patriots will learn a great deal from. Baltimore’s defense and opportunistic offense give the Patriots their first loss….at home. Baltimore pulls it out, 17-14.

Week 5 - @ Denver Broncos

The Mentor vs. the Mentee. Josh McDaniels has certainly put his stamp on the franchise he took over, although it is debatable if his moves were the right ones. He has shipped out his promising QB, Jay Cutler, and continues to have issues with superstar WR Brandon Marshall. Instead, he has tried to build a tough team that wants to work to win. Although he may be on the right track, his first season does not look promising. Look for New England to continue exposing a questionable defense and to try and take advantage of what seems to be a weak offense. New England blows out a team they traditionally struggle against – 31-10.

Week 6 – Tenn Titans

The Titans, like the Ravens, bring in a very tough defense. They play physically and get stops when they need them. Offensively, Kerry Collins continues to lead an offense that seemed to get the job done when it counted for most of the 2008 season. They have a great running attack with Chris Johnson and a slimmed down LenDale White. Their running attack provides the cushion they need for a passing attack. With that said, expect the Patriots to create a game plan around stopping the running game and forcing the Titans into passing situations. Having learned from their experience with the Ravens, the Patriots offense is able to expose the Titans and hit the road to London with a 21-10 victory.

Week 7 - @ TB Bucs (London)

A big week for the NFL as for the third year in a row, a game is played in London. A good opportunity for the Patriots to showcase themselves against a struggling TB franchise that has been overhauled after the firing of John Gruden. As a traditional defensive powerhouse, TB struggles in this game against a far superior New England team. The Patriots defense shows signs of improvement as they take advantage of a poor offense. New England blows out TB 28-3 and goes into their bye week at 6-1.

Week 8 – bye week

Week 9 - Miami Dolphins

The last time the Dolphins came to Foxboro they humiliated the Patriots, exposed their defensive and rattled an already shaky offense. The Dolphins are the team to beat in the AFC East as they are the defending champions. Division games are always important, and coming off the bye week, the Patriots are able to prepare for Chad Henne who had recently taken over for the struggling Chad Pennington. The New England defense is able to contain the Wildcat offense and play one of their best defensive games of the year. Offensively, Julian Edelman gives Miami a taste of their own medicine by scoring a TD from the Wildcat formation as the Patriots roll to a 27-7 victory.

Week 10 - @ Indianapolis Colts

Yet another installment in arguably the best rivalry of the decade. This time Tom Brady is back at it, but does not have the same success he had last the time he visited the Colts in 2007. The Patriots defense struggles as the Colts play a solid game on both sides of the ball and confuse the Patriots defense as a reminder that there is a lot of work to be done before the defense is playing how they want to. New England takes a step back as Peyton Manning leads his team to a big victory in a 21-17 victory.

Week 11 – NYJ

The Jets visit Foxboro on a cold November afternoon. Despite having played some better football as of late, the Jets continue to be fairly inconsistent, and have the unfortunate task of coming home to face an angry Patriots team that is extra focused after dropped their first road game of the year. With only 2 of the last 6 games coming at home, New England recognizes the importance of protecting home turf and is able to dominate the Jets in all phases of the game, walking away with a solid 20-6 victory.

Week 12 - @ NO Saints

Coming off a big divisional victory, the Patriots defense is again humbled. After showing some signs of improvement BB is seething after this loss and is a reminder to him that this team still has a lot of work to do. Regardless, the high powered offense is able to keep New England in the game, but ultimately lose the game in disappointing fashion. New Orleans wins 34-30.

Week 13 - @ Miami Dolphins

Heading into December Tom Brady speaks about the urgency of needing to play your best during this time of the season. After dropping 2 of the last 3, Brady sets the tone for a team that is refocused on fundamentals and the Belichick mantra of “Do Your Job.” Miami has always been a place that the Patriots have struggled, but they are able to dictate the pace of play on both sides of the ball. The defense takes a major stride as they bounce back from a disappointing performance the previous week to help their team to a 24-17 victory on the road.

Week 14 – Carolina Panthers

The Panthers come to town fighting for a playoff spot and give a performance reminiscent of their exciting game last year versus the Giants. Unfortunately for them, the home team wins again as New Englands offensive balance is too much for the Panthers to handle. The Patriots game plan to stop Carolina’s impressive running tandem of Jonathan Stewart and D’Angelo Williams, and are able to execute accordingly, squeezing out a 27-21 victory.

Week 15 - @ Buffalo Bills

In what seems to be a yearly occurrence, New England heads to Buffalo for a late December game. The weather will surely be an issue, and both teams look to play physical football and establish their running games. The Bills seemingly have given up on their coach, Dick Jauron (who was unknowingly kept after being quit on the previous year) and New England is able to come in and execute with ease. With a playoff berth already secured, the Patriots push through this game to go undefeated in their division and look forward to securing home field advantage in the playoffs. New England wins 20-3.

Week 16 – Jacksonville Jaguars

Yet another team that has not responded to their coach for the better part of two seasons, the Jaguars come to Foxboro unmotivated and does not seem to want to battle in the cold as they did in the playoffs two seasons ago. The result is ugly for them as the Patriots impose their will in all three phases of the game as they roll to another easy late season victory, 27-9. At 13-2, the Patriots have secured home field advantage.

Week 17 - @ Houston Texans

The Houston Texans are fighting for their playoff lives. As usual, the Patriots send out their first unit, hoping to play well and head into their bye week with some momentum. Despite a solid effort by both teams, the Patriots are unable to overcome Andre Johnson as he leads them to victory at home to clinch their first ever playoff berth, 21-17. A tough loss for the Patriots, who never like to head into the playoffs on a down note, but now have two weeks to learn and prepare for their first playoff game.

Final Record - 13-3




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