The NFL draft has come and gone with an array of surprises. Now, with the lockout, there is nothing to look forward to for the fans. I still have hope that this lockout gets resolved before the beginning of the season and all 17 weeks are played.
With that being said, the New England Patriots made some interesting choices in the draft that may have improved their team for the 2011 season. Here are seven bold predictions for the Pats next year.
The Pats will finish 15-1, clinching the AFC East by Week 13 and garnering home-field advantage throughout the playoffs in Week 14. Despite having one of the tougher schedules in the league the Patriots have made some major improvements at the RB and DB position in this year’s draft.
I know the front seven is looked at as a weak point for the Pats but getting guys back from injuries and possibly some offseason signings will help in that fashion.
The one game I can see them losing is Week 10 at the Jets. New York is always a tough team to beat and with this bitter rivalry it makes the Jets even harder to beat on their home turf.
McCourty had a great season in his rookie year with seven interceptions and 82 tackles. A lot of tackles is a good thing for a linebacker, but not for a cornerback. It's good he can make the open-field tackle but he will be a shutdown corner this season and deny receivers the ball.
McCourty will lead the league in interceptions this season with 12, two shy of the single-season record. He will turn into McCourty Island before this year is over.
The running back corps this season will get up over 2,000 yards this season. Bill Belichick has crafted a backfield where he has the perfect combination of speed, power and elusiveness that will complement the offense's style of play, helping New England to being one of the most potent offensive teams in the NFL.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis will lead the team again in rushing yards, with another 1,000-yard season. Although he is not an every-down back he will get a lot of rest with Danny Woodhead in to spell him on third downs, giving him the energy he needs for those powerful runs.
Woodhead will get over 600 yards this season as the Pats third-down back. His small stature gives him the ability to hide behind the offensive linemen and find the hole.
Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley will be good complementary backs in their rookie seasons, both gaining over 200 yards apiece on the ground.
After having somewhat of a down year in 2010, Welker is going to have a superb season as Tom Brady's No. 1 option in the air. Welker will grab over 130 balls and will gain over 1,300 receiving yards. He will also lead the receiving corps in TDs with 11.
With Brady throwing to Welker you cannot deny this possibility. With Randy Moss out of the picture, the Pats will go back to their bread and butter, throwing screens to Welker, especially down by the goal line.
With the season on the line and home-field advantage the Pats will not hold back against the rival Jets. The "defensive mastermind," Rex Ryan, won't even know what hit them when they see New England in the AFC Championship Game.
The offense this year will be a lot better and so will the defense. The loss of Randy Moss last season hurt the Pats because they forgot how to play without him. A whole year with Moss under their belts, and now they know how to win without a big-time, deep-threat wideout.
The Pats offense dominates the Jets in the air and the defense holds Mark Sanchez, who is possibly the most overrated starting quarterback in the NFL, to a mere 150 yards passing in a 42-17 rout. That's actually closer than the game will be, as seven of those points will come in garbage time.
The New England Patriots will finish the season 18-1 for the second time in four years, only this time they will win the Super Bowl.
The Pats will face off against the Atlanta Falcons in the 2011-12 Super Bowl at Lucas Oil Stadium. With the addition of Julio Jones the Falcons will be a much better team and will be able to make some noise in the playoffs.
They will not be able to tame Brady, as he will have an outstanding game, throwing for three TDs and over 300 yards, winning Super Bowl MVP. Super Bowl XLVI will be a tight-knit game as Gostkowski will hit a game-winning field goal as time expires, giving New England a 24-21 victory over Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons.
Tom Brady will win the NFL Most Valuable Player award in 2011. His passing stats will again solidify him as one of the best QBs of all time. The 2011-12 Super Bowl title will put him in a tie with Montana and Bradshaw for most Super Bowl wins by a single quarterback, four, which he will surely break before his career ends.
In 2011, Brady will have a lower touchdown-to-interception ratio than he did last season, throwing 42 touchdowns and only four picks. He will eclipse 4,250 passing yards on the season and set the NFL record for highest single-season passer rating with 123.0.
The 2011 season will be one to remember for Patriots fans, with record-setting achievements, capped off by a Super Bowl title. Finally the weight will be lifted off of Brady and Belichick's shoulders after the 2008 Super Bowl loss, where they started the season 18-0.