New England Patriots: 5 Reasons They Won't Make the Super Bowl
Certainly the Patriots have had a good offseason and presumably a good draft (I still don't get it, but Belichick gets the benefit of a doubt), but all this talk of Super Bowls and undefeated seasons is a little premature.
In fact, even though it's undeniable that the Patriots will be good this year, I don't think they'll be as good as everyone thinks. They'll be a playoff team for sure, just not a Super Bowl winner.
Here are five reasons why:
1. The New York Jets
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They've been giant killers for three years now, and Rex Ryan seems to have the Patriots' number.
Even in last year's playoffs, when the Patriots appeared practically invincible (they'd beaten the Jets 45-3 just a few weeks prior), it was the Jets that finished them off in their first game.
Furthermore, the Patriots' first loss of their regular season (one of only two) came from the Jets.
The Jets are coming for the Patriots in 2011, and even if the Patriots get the better of the Jets in their two regular season meetings, the Jets will at the very least make the season a lot tougher for the Pats.
2. A Lack of an Edge Rush
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Prior to the 2011 NFL draft, everyone assumed that the Patriots would use an early pick on an outside linebacker or a defensive end to give get them some help in one of their few weak points.
Instead, they drafted a tackle, a cornerback and two running backs with their first four picks.
While they added monster defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth and defensive end Shaun Ellis in the short offseason, they still don't have much on the outside. Mike Wright led the Pats in sacks in 2010 with 5.5. He was followed by Tully Banta-Cain, who had five.
I know Belichick doesn't like having an elite pass rusher and prefers to have sacks evenly divided among the defense, but a weakness is a weakness, and it's one that could keep the Pats from winning it all.
3. A Tough Schedule
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The Patriots will play the Steelers, Chiefs and the Colts next year. That's right, all three division winners in the AFC. They also play the Chargers, the Raiders, the Eagles, the Giants and the much-improved Cowboys.
That is not an easy schedule. Three of those tough games—the Steelers, the Jets and the Eagles—are away.
In fact, if just a few things don't go their way, that schedule could easily amount to the Patriots losing their division and hoping to get into the playoffs on a wild card. And since they'd be fighting it out with the Ravens/Steelers, the Colts/Texans and the Chargers/Chiefs, it wouldn't be guaranteed that they'd get it.
4. The Super Bowl Curse
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In 2007, the Patriots were undefeated and playing in the Super Bowl against the Giants—a team they'd already beaten a few weeks before. Before the game, everyone assumed that the 2007 Patriots would go down as the greatest team in the history of the NFL.
Then, the unthinkable happened. Eli Manning had one of the luckiest games that a quarterback has ever had, completing a pass to David Tyree's helmet amongst other things, and the Giants beat a clearly superior team.
Ever since then, the Patriots have continued their typical dominance in the regular season, but they have yet to win a playoff game.
Last year, the Jets defeated them 28-21 after the Patriots sat out the first round of the playoffs with a bye.
In 2009, the Ravens knocked them off 33-14 at Gillette Stadium in the Wild Card round.
In 2008, the Patriots missed the playoffs, despite going 11-5 with Brady out with a season-ending injury.
I'm not superstitious, but when a team as good as the Patriots goes three years without a win in the playoffs, you have to wonder.
5. The NFC Teams
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OK, even if, despite all the reasons I just mentioned, the Patriots win the AFC championship and march on to the Super Bowl, they still won't win.
Why? The NFC teams this year are too good.
First of all, there's the Eagles. After Michael Vick's super-human season last year, along with the additions of Nnamdi Asomugha, Vince Young, Jason Babin and Cullen Jenkins, the Eagles are going to be one mean team. After all, Asante Samuel led the NFL in interceptions last year, and now he's playing across from Asomugha, with Dominiquie Rodgers-Cromartie in the mix as well. Even Tom Brady will have a rough time passing against that.
Then there's the NFC South. The Saints, Buccaneers and Falcons could all be Super Bowl-caliber teams. The Saints have a shiny new offensive weapon in Mark Ingram, and the Falcons added wideout Julio Jones in the draft. The Buccaneers managed to snag both Adrian Clayborne and former consensus No. 1 defensive end Da'Quan Bowers in the draft.
Finally, there are the Packers—the defending Super Bowl champions. The team that won the Super Bowl with 15 players on IR. The team that almost beat the Patriots last year with a backup quarterback. They might be the first team since the Patriots to repeat the feat.
The Patriots will be good next year. In fact, they'll be great—they always are. But just don't get your expectations up too high Patriots fans. They aren't winning the Super Bowl.