New England Patriots: 5 Bold Predictions for the 2011 NFL Season
The Patriots' defense couldn't stop a nose bleed. The offense missed a huge opportunity to capitalize on a Jets' missed field goal in the first quarter, settling for just three points. And Patrick Chung made a big blunder at the end of the first half to allow a Jets touchdown.
As per usual, the Patriots reloaded through the draft but, typically, didn't snatch any immediate game-changing players. The Patriots' success in the 2011 season will hinge on the established core group: Wes Welker, Vince Wilfork and, of course, Tom Brady.
With the prospect of a shortened or lost season looming due to the lockout, here's a few predictions for the New England Patriots' 2011 NFL Season.
13-3 Regular-Season Record
Playing the Jets twice during the season isn't an easy task. These games are so highly emotional for the players and coaches, and both teams are elite in the NFL. I expect the Patriots to fall to the Jets at the Meadowlands in Week 10.
The Patriots will take care of business against the Jets at home in Week 5. However, Week 6 is a glaring trap game against the Dallas Cowboys. Coming off an emotional Week 5 win and heading into a Week 7 bye, the Patriots will fall to the Cowboys in a tight, low-scoring affair for their first loss of the season.
In Week 12, the Patriots play an away game against the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles' destructive offense led by Michael Vick and DeSean Jackson will run wild over the Patriots' slow defense, putting up 40+ points in the win.
Of course, 13-3 isn't bad. And it's a testament to the Belichick era that there's no need to justify wins over the Indianapolis Colts; they're just assumed.
Increased Playing Time for Julian Edelman
My views on Julian Edelman are well-documented: I've always felt like he should have an increased role in the Patriots' offense. I understand it's hard to find playing time for him behind Wes Welker and, now, Danny Woodhead, but Edelman's always been effective when given the chance.
I think this will be Edelman's breakout year. The Patriots didn't exactly stock up on new offensive weapons in the draft, so they'll have to find extra options in house. Edelman can catch passes from the slot or the backfield, meaning he'd be able to spell Welker and Woodhead without the offense losing much in terms of ability.
And let's not forget: Edelman played quarterback in college. This will be just his third year in the NFL; he's still learning the receiver position.
Lightning Doesn't Strike Twice: Patriots Defeat Jets in Playoffs
Walking to a friend's dorm to watch the Divisional Round last year, I thought about how awful it would be for the Patriots to lose this game. How it would legitimize the Jets as our rival when I always wanted our rival to be the Colts. Then I thought about the Patriots' 45-3 dismantling of the Jets in Week 13 and remembered that losing this game was an impossibility.
It won't happen again; and this is the only point in this article where I'll admit that I have no real reasons to think so. I'm letting my emotions get the better of me; this can't happen again. We have the better offense, and great offense beats great defense. The Packers beat the Steelers. The Heat beat the Celtics. The Patriots will beat the Jets.
New England Patriots: Super Bowl XLVI Champions
Cue the comments of "you're a homer" and "the Patriots defense is awful." For the record, I am, and it's not.
Tom Brady is still the best quarterback and leader in the NFL. The offense is dynamic and productive. The defense, while lacking a pass-rushing threat, bends but knows how not to break.
The Patriots will meet the Packers in the Super Bowl in Indianapolis and will win a close game, 31-24. The much-maligned defense will be tested as the Packers drive to tie the game, and it will rise to the occasion with a sack to slow the momentum and an interception to seal the win. Because those are the types of storylines that ESPN loves, and we all know ESPN controls the sports world.
Tom Brady: Back-to-Back NFL MVP
3,900 yards. 36 touchdowns. Four interceptions. 65.9 completion percentage.
Those were Brady's 2010 stats. If he comes anywhere close to those in 2011, and there's no reason to believe he won't, he'll have his third MVP in the bag. But I think Patriots fans, and Brady, will gladly sacrifice the MVP Award if only one of these predictions can come true.