It's not a surprise that the Patriots are favored in the AFC to make it to the Big Game. Of course last season who would have predicted the Jets knocking Tom and Co. out of the playoffs? This season the Pats have more weapons, a supposedly redesigned defense and the MVP and Coach of the Year in 2010. Can they make it to the Super Bowl? Three reasons why they will and three reasons why they won't.
Last season he became the first player in NFL history to be unanimously voted as the NFL MVP. Despite being knocked out in first round of the playoffs he had arguably his best season ever. In the 2011 season opener we saw the same Brady, and, if possible, maybe even better.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock then you know he went for a team record of 517 yards and four touchdowns. And for kicks, one of those was a 99 yarder to Wes Welker. Tom’s hurry up offense looked more than dangerous, it looked exhausting even from my couch. For Miami it was just too much to handle and they fell to pieces. If Tom continues on his tear toward the title, then we’ll see the Patriots in the Super Bowl.
We’ve already mentioned the MVP of last year so how can we not include the Coach of the Year? Bill Belichick was selected as the Coach of the Year by the Associated Press receiving 30 of 50 votes. Last season when Bill sent Randy Moss packing I received several phone calls saying that our season was over. They couldn’t have been more wrong with the Patriots finishing the regular season 14-2. This season isn’t any different as Bill makes moves that some think are genius and others think are risky. Regardless, the amount of plays in Belichick’s playbook should make any team quiver. In the hoodie we trust.
The Patriots have always had a dangerous offense and this season isn’t different in that respect. What does make this season different is the amazing amount of weapons Brady and Belichick have at their disposal. A brief rundown for you: Wes Welker, Deion Branch, Chad Ochocinco, Julian Edelman, Taylor Price, Matthew Slater, Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski, Danny Woodhead and BenJarvus Green-Ellis and that’s the names we know of right now.
If there’s a team that can seem to find the jewels in the rough it’s the Patriots. To note I didn’t even mention the offensive line which gave Brady a lifetime in the pocket to pick apart Miami’s defense in the season opener.
I hate to even think about our 2007 Super Bowl, but David certainly beat Goliath. In 2010 the Patriots were 14-2 only to be knocked out of the playoffs by the underdog New York Jets. The Patriots looked great in their 2011 season opener but we all know that doesn't mean much. Having said that I love this Brady's quote—"I don't think there's a lot of carry over from year-to-year. I don't think anybody cares what you did the year before."
Last season the Patriots were the worst team on third-down stops. They allowed conversions 47.1 percent of the time. Ask anyone and they’ll say, no matter how good your offense is, if you can’t stop’em on defense you can’t win the Lombardi trophy.
There are a lot of new variables this season on defense, the addition of Albert Haynesworth to name the big one, as well as names that have yet to show what they can really do like Devin McCourty. If they’re able to hold on those critical third-downs and get off the field, then the Patriots have a good shot at the big game. If they stumble like they did last year they’ll be going home in the playoffs.
The Patriots’ schedule might be ranked as the 16th hardest in the NFL, but in my book it ranks higher. Take a look at some of the games they have ahead of them—Jets, Steelers, Giants, Eagles and a possibly revitalized Redskins and Bills. Why would I throw the Bills in there? The Bills play the Patriots harder than any other team I believe and if they get momentum going this season there’s a chance they could be a season upsetter.
I feel that around the entire league the bar has been raised and we’re seeing that in the AFC: Buffalo shocking the whole NFL community by stomping on the Cleveland Browns; the Baltimore Ravens looking vicious in their win over the Steelers; and the New York Jets, who might have gotten lucky in their season opening win but as Patriots’ fans know we should never count them out. The only reprieve that the Pats have is Indy is down for the count in 2011.
Last season was a huge success for the Patriots, yet if you look at their 14-2 record what do you see? Their two losses were on the road. In 2009 the Patriots went 10-6 with all but one of their losses coming on the road. This season almost all those tough match-ups on their schedule are on the road (the exception being the Giants game). Could the road prove to be a kink in the armor of the Pats? As a pretty die-hard fan the problem with road games doesn’t concern me yet. That said, if we see any trouble early on as they head to Buffalo or Oakland I might be changing my mind real quick.
"If it doesn't matter who wins or loses, then why do they keep score?" - Vince Lombardi
My prediction is that the Patriots will push into the playoffs and have a great shot at the Big Game. In truth there are only two threats I see to the Pats—the Baltimore Ravens and the New York Jets. As for the Jets, I'm still not a believer in Sanchez and I say he hits a slump this season. The Ravens, on the other hand, are a team to be feared. I'm going with my gut and saying the Patriots have a great year and make the big game, after that, all bets are off, especially if they're up against Green Bay.