The New England Patriots. The team of the past decade. The owners of three championships. The owners of a perfect regular season. To many the name alone breeds hatred among the ranks of other franchises, in their fans and players alike raw memories of snowy losses and abrupt ends to promising seasons rush back every time they hear their name.
They are the prototype team the Saints organization is trying to follow footstep by footstep. They are the franchise that teams like the Chargers, Colts, Steelers, Rams, Eagles, Panthers, Dolphins, Bills and Jets love to hate. The name alone is a bold statement.
As I view article after article about how the dynasty is dead, or the window has closed for the Brady Bunch and Bill Belichick one thought continues to skip in and out of my mind. "Just because of one playoff loss and a 10-6 record? They think the sky is coming down on us?"
People tend to forget Brady is now two seasons removed from his torn ACL, they forget that the Patriots are the ones who won the AFC east and not the Jets, that despite our "old offense" we ranked third overall in total offense. That despite losing greats to retirement or trade our "young defense" still ranked 11th overall. Patriots Boasted the third toughest schedule in 2009, remember that!
I am going to present throughout this slideshow why I believe the Pats will be true contenders this year and are primed for a comeback ending with my bold prediction.
Truly this is the team the NFL loves to hate.
One of the reasons they are primed for a comeback is due to their more dynamic offense. At times last year it seemed like every play was either to Moss or Welker then an incomplete pass to someone else or a dropped pass to Watson followed by a dance by Maroney for a short gain.
With the emergence of Edelman and his obvious progression in our system along with the two dynamic tight ends we took in the draft it would seem as though this offense could give the '07 club a run for it's money.
But some beg the question, how do we get Edelman and Welker on the field at the same time without going to a spread offense? Bill Belichick already has that one figured out.
In the recent days at training camp Edelman has been taking snaps with the running backs out of the backfield. He has also been making remarks to the media about how he loves to "carry the ball' suggesting he is comfortable playing from the running back spot.
Edelman often draws comparisons to Welker due to his size but Edelman is built a little sturdier at 5-10 198 lbs. He fits closer to the mold of a running back than his counterpart Wes Welker who stands at 5-9 185 lbs.
The two tight ends taken in the draft will also draw mismatches. Rob Gronkowski, the giant of the two will most likely be playing more of a traditional role at the spot, his size and soft hands will make him a big target in the endzone not to mention his blocking capabilities.
Then we have tight end Aaron Hernandez who many consider an H-Back type of player and has been know to draw comparisons to pro-bowler Dallas Clark. This guy could be seen lining up anywhere from tight end and wide receiver to running back and full back. Imagine next year we could see formations with Edelman lined up in the backfield with Welker in the slot and Moss and Tate to the outsides.
We could see formations where Edelman is in the backfield with Hernandez playing as his fullback. We could see split backs with Edelman and Faulk on third downs. This offense if finally truly dynamic.
Side note: Alge Crumpler will also play a big role this year but mainly as a blocker like he did last year when he helped CJ2k rush for over 2,000 yards. Our running game can only benefit from this offense.
Like Concrete this defense needs time to set and harden, that much was obvious last season. Also like concrete the deeper it is the longer it takes to set and believe me, Belichick likes to lay it on thick.
I think we will be seeing a huge jump from last year to this year, despite the embarrassing playoff loss, last year's youngsters still ranked 11th overall and held opponents to an average of 17.8 points per game. That's not bad is it? Excuse me if I'm wrong but we held our own last year despite losing greats like Harrison and Bruschi.
With Bill Belichick taking a more active role over the defense this year expect more creative blitz packages this year and better pressure on the opposing quarter back. Of course there are going to be some growing pains throughout the season but nothing like the fourth quarter meltdowns we saw last year and NOTHING like the opening run by Ray Rice in the playoffs, not with Spikes and Mayo paired together. I can guarantee that.
Spikes is an exceptional talent and can read plays like a book. He is a thumper between gaps on runs and if you followed college football you'd know that before his "eye gouging" incident and his poor 40 yard dash time this kid was in the discussion for a top ten pick. Luckily, he slid to us.
Our secondary got a year wiser over the offseason. Leigh Bodden returns as our best CB while Darius Butler has taken huge strides in training camp. Chung showed flashes of his big hit ability in our preseason game against the Saints and Meriweather returns as a Pro Bowler.
The first round draft pick by the Pats, Devin McCourty will make a solid nickle corner and a huge asset on special teams. If we can generate some pass rush this year this secondary will really shine.
By midseason look for this defense to settle in and be as hard as concrete to play against.
Side note: Despite the loss of the consistent Ty warren for the season I do believe this year is the year for our defense to finally find it's identity. I that that the Patriots are in hot pursuit of free agent DE Aaron Schobel who could help ease the loss of Ty now more than ever.
EDIT:::Aaron Schobel as elected to retire instead of play according to many league sources. Stating he lost his hunger for the game. Sad to see a talent like that walk away at a time of need like ours.
When talking about football many people ignore the third phase of the game, special teams. No one can deny though, when you have a 50 yard field opposed to an 80 yard field, points come easier.
Devin McCourty probably won't have a huge affect on the every down defense this year but by the looks of it his force will be felt on special teams. In the preseason game against the Saints alone he had two 50+ yard returns. In college he was known to block a kick or two in college recording seven blocked kicks while he attended school.
While McCourty has one of the kick returner spots down the man who will probably play opposite him is second year WR Brandon Tate.
In college Tate held the NCAA record for combined kick returns yards (3,523 yards) and two ACC records for kickoff returns (109) and kick return yardage (2,688 yards).
This is the year of the Moss. They only come around every so often, when he is in a contract year. I don't need to remind anyone of the last time Randy Moss faced a contract year do I? Maybe I should just say the number. 23, 23 touchdowns that is.
Look for Moss to explode the whole year, he is looking for his last big payday and nothing less but an amazing year from this future hall of famer would do.
With accusations that Moss "shuts down" in some games last year he is looking to shed that perception and remove that trait from his resume for his last big raise. Look for Moss to play 100% every time Tom looks his way.
Moss has been training hard all offseason and appears to already be in "midseason" form after training camp. I think Moss is looking for a ring to go along with that next big money deal.
I'm predicting 1200+ yards and 14+ touchdowns from Moss this year.
If you haven't heard already Wes Welker is back earlier than expected. His tough and tireless work ethic along with his luck to avoid any complications from his ACL surgery have lead to the brink of a full recovery.
Although Welker hasn't appeared in any preseason games he has been fully participating in training camp. Even taking some hits from fellow teammate Mayo.
Look for the Brady, Welker, Moss trio to continue without a hitch in week one against the Bengals.
I'm predicting another 100+ catch season for Welker this year. People forget Welker posted 100+ catches last year despite missing several games.
A strong start can't hurt, I think the pats will hit the ground running at least through week three in which we host the Bengals, visit the the Jets and come back home against the Bills.
This will be the second straight year we face T.O. in our opening game. We matched up against him in two games last year where he only snatched four passes for 66 yards and no scores.
As for his buddy Chad "OchoCinco"? Chad has never had a 100 yard game against the Patriots since he has entered the league and the Bengals have matched up against the Pats four times since 2001 when he became an NFL player.
Within those four games Chad has recorded 14 receptions for 197 yards and one score (He did not play in the first game when he entered.) with the bulk of that yardage coming in 2004 when he had 5 receptions for 80 yards and that one touchdown.
No disrespect to the Bengals as I do see them as the toughest opponent we have in that three game stretch and their defensive core is very strong but I don't think they are strong enough to match up to our offense this year. In the Tom Brady era the Bengals are 1-3 against the Pats.
The Jets will be a statement game, no doubt in my mind the Pats will win this. With Welker likely to be back by this time (The loss early last year to the Jets was when Welker sat out of the game.) and the emergence of Julian Edelman combined with the possible continued holdout of Revis I don't see the Jets D functioning the same.
Without Revis alot of Rex Ryan's Blitz packages would leave a man wide open. Not to mention the fact that former Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes will still be suspended in this game.
Without Revis who is going to go stride for stride with Moss? Is Sanchez going to be able to keep the score close to Brady? These are the questions you must ask yourself when talking about this game.
The Bills really need no explanation here. They lost Fred Jackson and Lynch in the Preseason opener and will be forced to rely on their only two offensive weapons rookie CJ spiller and Lee Evans, I just don't see the Bills pulling any upsets this year. They could be the first pick in next years draft.
Like I said before, last year the Pats boasted the third toughest schedule, this year they hold the sixth toughest. The main difference? Most of the hard games are here at home. That's a huge advantage when talking about the Patriots.
Home games: Bengals, Bills, Ravens, Vikings, Colts, Jets, Packers and Dolphins.
Six of eight of those teams were playoff teams last year, three of them were in conference championship games, I'm glad they are all coming home to play us.
Reasons why we could win the tough ones: The Ravens will be without Ed Reed due to the fact that he stated he will almost 100% be placed on the PUP list which would make him ineligible to play in this game, that makes playing the Ravens much easier.
In the playoff loss the Patriots outscored the Ravens in the final three quarters of the game. If the Pats avoid another first quarter blowout I can see them taking this one home.
The Vikings are another tough match up depending on if Brett Favre comes back or not. I'd like to see the old gun slinger play out another year but he would make this game way harder for our Pats.
This one could go either way depending on if Favre (if he does play) has a good or bad day. If he produces turnovers we got this one.
The Colts visit the Razor in November, lets be honest. We look forward to these games every year. Depending on the weather the difficulty of this game can vary.
If it is snowing the Patriots pretty much take this one home as Manning has a history of playing bad in bad weather. If it isn't? Look for another shootout between the two super powers.
The Green Bay Packers will be a tough one to beat. They are used to playing in cold weather. They can put points on the board. No matter how you look at this game you can only picture a shootout between the two number twelves.
This game could come down to the wire or maybe even overtime. If the Patriots can generate a significant pass rush this game our chances are increased, this game is as predictable as a coin flip.
Side note: I see us sweeping the J.E.T.S this year and splitting with the Dolphins, but generally we got the dolphins at home.
The easiest way to the playoffs is by winning your division. The Pats have won it time and time again in the Tom Brady era. Don't look for that trend to stop.
All the offseason chatter about the Jets acquisitions have many "experts" crowning them the division champs. Not so fast, the Jets were a 9-7 team with the Colts and Bengals laying down at the end of the year.
Since they beat the Bengals in the playoffs I'll give them that one but the Colts would have beat them hands down. This team is truly an 8-8 team. 8-8 teams are not division champs. Heck they are rarely wild card teams.
To keep this slide short and simple here is how I predict the AFC East.
Patriots- 11-5 to 12-4 (5-1 Div) Division Champs
Dolphins- 10-6 (5-1 Div) Wild-Card berth
Jets- 8-8 (2-4 Div) Missed playoffs
Bills (0-6 Div) Number one pick in next years draft
Take it to the Bank.
Patriots vs Packers Super Bowl
AFC champ game Colts vs Patriots
NFC champ game Saints vs Packers
I hoped you enjoyed my slideshow. I would have gone more in depth but I felt as though it was getting long winded.
Thanks for reading!