New England Patriots Week 1 Preview: 4 Keys to Success

Andrew McCluskeyCorrespondent ISeptember 8, 2011

New England Patriots Week 1 Preview: 4 Keys to Success

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    It is time.

    Week 1 of the 2011 NFL season is only days away and fans around the country are beginning to get anxious.

    New England Patriots fans are excited again as the team is looking promising. Tom Brady is looking as sharp as ever and there are plenty of new faces on both sides of the ball to generate interest.

    They will be taking on division rival Miami Dolphins on the first Monday Night Football game. While the Dolphins aren't the toughest team in the division, the Patriots will be looking to make a statement in Week 1.

    Here are four keys to getting the 2011 season off on the right foot.

Effective Pass Rush

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    The Patriots have been looking to improve their weak pass rush for the past few years.

    It was clear this offseason that they were finally recognizing this need. New England made a blockbuster trade for Albert Haynesworth in hopes of adding another disruptive force on the line.

    They also signed Andre Carter and Shaun Ellis to give the team more of an edge rush.

    We have seen inconsistency on the line through the preseason. There have been times where the defensive line has looked dominant and other times where they just haven't clicked.

    The defensive line will need to prove they can generate a pass rush if the Patriots are going to have a championship quality defense.

    If the line can get to Henne on Monday night than it will be an encouraging sign for the rest of the year.

Play at the Safety Postion

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    With the final cuts taking place over the weekend we have seen a number of familiar faces released.

    James Sanders and Brandon Meriweather were both released. Sanders has been both a leader and a consistent contributor for the past few years. Meriweather is a two-time Pro Bowl selection.

    The Patriots obviously feel that Pat Chung and Sergio Brown can handle the load at safety.

    While the Dolphins don't have the most prolific passing game in the league, if there are glaring holes in the defense they will be exposed.

    Chung has proven that he has the potential to be a top level safety. However, one hole in your secondary can lead to trouble regardless of who else you have.

    Sergio Brown will need to impress or the Patriots will be looking elsewhere.

Improved Play from the Wide Receivers

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    Looking back on the preseason numbers the wide receivers were less than impressive.

    Chad Ochocinco has appeared to struggle picking up the complicated Patriots offense. Deion Branch went the entire preseason without a catch.

    The one bright spot was Wes Welker looking more like himself after recovering from a knee injury most of last year.

    If the Patriots offense is going to be as effective as it was last year they will need Ochocinco and Branch to step up. Besides the top three there is nothing but unproven, young options at wideout.

    It may just be that Branch was being saved up for the regular season, but concerns will still linger.

    Ochocinco certainly has the talent to succeed on any team. However, the Patriots offense relies on the ability of all their players to see what Tom Brady is seeing.

    If Ochocinco can't keep up then he won't last very long here.

    Week 1 will give us a great preview of what to expect from the Patriots offense this year.

Brady Being Brady

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    At the end of the day the most important key to the Patriots' success is Tom Brady.

    He is what makes the wheels turn on New England's offense. If Brady isn't on target then the rest of the offense will be thrown off.

    Even at age 34 Brady appears to be at the top of his game. He has looked sharp all preseason even with the rest of the offense struggling.

    Brady has been able to find some bright spots on the offense such as tight end Aaron Hernandez and veteran Wes Welker.

    Brady has been one of the best, if not the best, quarterbacks in the league for quite some time. He has shown that he has the ability to beat any defense and thrive in any situation.

    While you shouldn't expect any less out of Brady this year, it is important to remember just how important he is to this team.