Usually at this point in the summer, NFL fans have a pretty good idea of what to expect from their favorite team in regards to the upcoming season. But thanks to the ugly lockout, many fans still don’t know how 2011 is going to pan out for their squads.
Luckily, Patriots fans can bank on at least five things that are pretty much guaranteed to happen to their team in 2011. So without further adieu, here are five bold predictions for the 2011 New England Patriots.
Coming off an impressive rookie campaign in 2010, Patriots fans will be expecting more big things out of second-year cornerback Devin McCourty in 2011. But what they may not realize is that his 2011 efforts will be overshadowed by someone who didn’t even play single down in the league last season in Leigh Bodden.
Yes, Bodden will lead the Pats defense in picks this year, but it won’t necessarily happen because he’s their best cornerback (although he did have a team-leading five interceptions with Brandon Meriweather in 2009). While they’ll be reluctant to throw McCourty’s way, many quarterbacks will test Bodden early and often, simply because they’ll probably think he will be vulnerable, coming off a major injury.
Will Bodden be able to stand up to the pressure? If so, then he will have an impressive comeback season and form a scary good tandem with McCourty.
Some fans—particularly Fireman Ed and his legion of Gang Green followers—will find no reasoning in this statement, especially considering how the Jets took two of three from the Pats last year and ended their season in stunning fashion with a 28-21 upset in the AFC Divisional playoffs.
But to the dismay of Fireman Ed and despite what Sexy Rexy tells you, the Jets will take a slight step backwards in 2011, leaving the Pats poised for a little revenge in the form of a sweep of their bitter archrivals—in both the regular season and playoffs.
The biggest contributing factor to New York’s 2011 regression will come from free agency. It’s no secret that many who suited up for the Jets last year may not be back this year. With players like David Harris, Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards, and Antonio Chromartie poised for big pay days, the Jets simply can’t keep everybody.
While Mark Sanchez and a few other young Jets will continue their upward trajectories in 2011, Gang Green may lose some of the rocket fuel that propelled them to a second straight AFC title game this past season.
It’s a losing streak that hasn’t gained much attention nationally, but certainly makes diehard Bills fans cringe. No, it’s not the four straight Super Bowl losses (although that does certainly sting), it’s actually the 15 straight losses the Bills have suffered at the hands of the Patriots, a streak in this NFL era that is simply mindboggling, no matter how bad Buffalo has been over the years.
But the streak will be snapped this season. It definitely won’t happen at Gillette Stadium, a venue where the Patriots have gone undefeated the past two regular seasons. However, getting the Pats at home early in 2011 will go a long way in snapping the losing streak for the Bills.
They’ll be going against a New England defense that will still be trying to integrate Ty Warren and Leigh Bodden back into the fold. And Bills rookie Marcel Dareus may give Tom Brady and New England’s revamped offensive line fits in Week 3.
These factors will create the perfect storm for a Buffalo upset in Orchard Park, and will have Bills fans partying like it’s 2003—the last year the Bills beat the Pats.
Pats fans may think it’s silly to call this a bold prediction, but chew on this: January 20, 2008 was the last time the Patriots won a playoff game. That was the AFC Championship game against the Chargers.
Since then, New England has lost three straight in the postseason. Put in further perspective, Tom Brady has more ACL tears than playoff victories since 2008. But why will this year prove any different from past seasons that have seen postseason setback after setback?
It’s because this Patriots team will be ready to take the next step. Sure, last year New England had an impressive 14-2 season. But many people forget they weren’t supposed to be so good so soon.
When push came to shove, a young Patriots team (especially on defense) just couldn’t handle the moment in their playoff loss to the Jets. But if the young defense continues to make strides and mature as a unit in 2011 and Tom Brady still performs at an MVP-caliber level, then this year’s unit will finally win a playoff game.
In fact, they’ll win a few playoff games, because…
Again, this may not seem like a bold prediction on the surface, but it has been six years since the Patriots hoisted their last Vince Lombardi trophy. In this era of professional sports, that’s ancient history, especially for a team so used to winning. It’s about time Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots return to their championship ways, and this year they’re poised to do just that.
This is mainly because last season’s 14-2 team returns mostly intact. Granted, there could be some losses on the offensive line (Matt Light and Logan Mankins come to mind). But many skill position players and almost everyone on the defensive side of the ball return in 2011.
Patriots fans saw the potential of this team in 2010, a season that saw many of the younger players gain valuable experience. Add a few crucial tweaks to the roster, and New England will be ready to break through in 2011 and get back to what they used to do best—winning championships.