Congratulations to the New England Patriots on another winning season.
The once unstoppable juggernaut that the New England Patriots were in the past four seasons has somewhat changed and the once mighty Patriots now seem human.
The loss of Wes Welker heading into the playoffs definitely dampens spirits in New England, and now puts even more pressure onto the remaining receiver corps.
Offensively, the Pats are solidly ranked third in passing yards, 12th in rushing, and third in overall offense; however, the loss of one major factor in Welker now makes this a new ball game.
With that loss, it now places wide receiver Randy Moss in a position where he will definitely see double coverage and affords the opposing defenses more time to penetrate the offensive line and fluster Tom Brady.
Another aspect to consider is that the running game will now become more of an emphasis in the offensive attack.
New England's rushing attack is ranked 12th in the league averaging 119 yards per game, which factors heavily in this playoff season, as teams like Baltimore, NY, and Cincinnati are all formidable defenses allowing an average of 96 rushing yards per game; as well as ranking first, third, and fourth in overall defense respectively.
The best case scenario in this situation would be to face Cincinnati, where they (Patriots) would be able to control the game for the most part, due to a lack of consistency on the Bengals' part.
Overall if you dissect the schedule, the Patriots schedule was mostly consisting of teams that were either playing for draft position or fighting to get into the playoffs.
Either way you look at it, the offensive ability aside, the Patriots had difficulty when facing teams that were playoff caliber.
In those games, the Patriots went 2-3, splitting with the division rival Jets.
In the victories against playoff teams the average margin of victory was 11.5 points. Not very convincing numbers.
Another key factor is Tom Brady's history of handling pressure. If the defensive teams can establish a solid pass rush, Mr. Brady is in for a long day as he does not feel comfortable in collapsing pockets, or being forced to throw earlier than he would like.
Defensive backs like those in Baltimore are salivating, and should be a main reason why the Patriots don't advance in the second season.
Overall, the New England Patriots are a team on the decline and the only saving grace they have had is the fact they play in a weak division, the AFC east.
Conclusively, this team is not the dominating force they once were; although still a top team, they are in a playoff picture with teams that are fully capable of putting up big numbers, and defenses that are able to change a game.
Despite the early season victory over Baltimore, look for a one and done result this year, as Baltimore will prove too much for them to handle in the playoffs.
Baltimore 25 - New England 16.