Revisiting 10 Patriots Predictions from the Preseason

Erik Frenz@ErikFrenzSenior Writer IFebruary 12, 2015

Revisiting 10 Patriots Predictions from the Preseason

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Preseason predictions are always a fun exercise in futility. The NFL season is so unpredictable that it can be nearly impossible to get it all right.

    Though we hope to be right more than we're wrong as sports analysts, no one's batting average is 1.000.

    The New England Patriots' run of success has been remarkably predictable; it seems like Patriots head coach Bill Belichick could roll out of bed and earn a playoff spot without batting an eye. 

    But the devil is in the details, and it can be exceedingly difficult to get it right when it comes to minutiae. That being said, it can be incredibly hilarious to look back on those failed predictions after the fact. So, let's take a look back at my preseason predictions for the Patriots and see where I got it right and where I got it oh-so-terribly wrong. 

Darrelle Revis Will Intercept 5 or More Passes: Wrong

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    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    What I Said

    The last time [Darrelle Revis] had more than five interceptions was in 2009, when he had six. Of course, this prediction assumes that quarterbacks will throw at him often enough to make that happen. If Revis is playing like his old self, that may not be a safe assumption.

    What Happened

    The Patriots' All-Pro cornerback delivered only three interceptions (one in the playoffs), but he still managed to have a shutdown type of season. He allowed only 51.8 percent of the passes into his coverage to be completed, with only four touchdowns, 12 passes defensed and a total of a 74.7 passer rating.

    Revis managed to be a key component of the Patriots defense despite a lack of interceptions. The Patriots often put him in the one-on-one matchup against an opponent's best receiver, with only a few exceptions (Brandon Browner covered Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson due to the size matchup). 

    Now, if the Patriots want to enjoy another luxurious year on Revis Island, they will have to pony up a pretty penny to ensure he doesn't relocate to another destination.

The Patriots Will Rank in the Top 5 in Defensive Passer Rating: Wrong

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    What I Said

    In 2013, the Patriots allowed opposing quarterbacks to compile an 81 passer rating against them, the ninth-lowest allowed by any defense. With the improvements the Patriots made in the secondary, it's hard to imagine they won’t improve on that performance.

    What Happened

    Interestingly enough, the Patriots took a step back in their pass defense numbers. They allowed 59.6 percent completions, 7.2 yards per attempt and an 84 passer rating, all higher than the 2013 season. Their 84 passer rating against was the 10th-best in the NFL in 2014.

    Despite a slight decline in those areas, the Patriots improved in the one area that Bill Belichick cares about the most: points allowed. In 2013, they yielded 21.1 points per game (10th in the NFL) compared to 19.6 points per game in 2014 (eighth in the NFL).

Rob Gronkowski Will Play 16 Games: Right

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    What I Said

    Ideally, Gronkowski would play every snap of every game. The Patriots may be wise, however, to manage his snaps and try to keep him as healthy as possible over the course of the season. If they do that, Gronkowski could see the first fully healthy season of his career since he broke the record for receiving touchdowns by a tight end in a single season in 2011 with 17.

    What Happened

    Correlation is not the same as causation, but it does not take a math whiz to see that the Patriots are a much better team with Rob Gronkowski on the field than they are without him.

    Gronkowski did not play every game for the Patriots in 2014, but the only game he did not play, he was a healthy scratch, and it was the meaningless regular-season finale against the Buffalo Bills.

    Gronkowski came right back into the lineup for the playoffs, contributing one touchdown in each of the Patriots' three postseason contests and helping them hoist the Lombardi Trophy. 

    What a difference a fully healthy 6'6", 260-pound tight end makes.

Contract Extension for Devin McCourty: Wrong

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    USA TODAY Sports

    What I Said

    The 2014 Ron Burton Award winner has developed into one of the NFL's premier safeties and could be in line for a big contract and a bidding war if he hits the open market. McCourty has become a leader for the defense and is a captain once again in 2014 after earning the role on an interim basis during the 2013 season.

    What Happened

    Devin McCourty had a solid season for the Patriots but did not get the contract extension I thought he would. The Patriots did, however, give new contracts to running back Brandon Bolden and safety Patrick Chung. 

    Thus, McCourty is set to hit the open market in March. The Patriots will have to pony up a pretty penny if they want to keep him in the fold in 2015 and beyond.

Tom Brady Will Throw at Least 35 Touchdown Passes: Wrong

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    What I Said

    In 2013, Tom Brady threw 25 touchdowns. That was the fewest in a single season by him since 2006. His 6.9 yards per pass attempt was his lowest average since 2006, and his 60.5 completion percentage was his lowest since 2005.

    What Happened

    So close. Tom Brady threw 33 touchdowns passes in the regular season, falling just two touchdowns short of my prediction. 

    Despite failing to reach my lofty goal, Brady had a huge rebound season after a tough go of it in 2013. He followed up an offseason wherein ESPN and many others questioned his abilities as a top-five quarterback by shoving it down everyone's throats with a higher completions percentage, more yards per pass attempt, more touchdowns, fewer interceptions and a 10-point increase in passer rating over the previous season.

    Thus, while Brady may not have hit 35 touchdowns, he did prove to the world that he is far from finished in the NFL. 

Duron Harmon Will Be the Full-Time Starting SS by the End of the Season: Wrong

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    USA TODAY Sports

    What I Said

    Harmon admitted to some problems with tackling last season, and focused on improving that this offseason. Chung is not afraid to come into the box and make a hit in the running game but does not match Harmon's skill set of route recognition, quick reaction time and instincts when defending the pass as a deep safety. If Harmon can show improvement as a tackler, he could emerge as the full-time safety by the end of the 2014 season.

    What Happened

    During the preseason, Duron Harmon was cast into a role as a deep safety to help provide coverage on passing downs (primarily third downs), while Patrick Chung spent his time as an in-the-box safety to provide support on running downs and in man coverage (first and second down).

    That did not change much over the course of the season, as Harmon played 321 total snaps (regular season and playoffs), with 246 coverage snaps. Harmon did not start a single game and played only 24.7 percent of the Patriots' defensive snaps.

    Who knows if he will eventually step into a role as a starter, but in 2014, it was not to be.

No Wide Receiver Will Earn over 100 Receptions: Right

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    USA TODAY Sports

    What I Said

    At times, it seemed like [Julian] Edelman was the only receiver Brady was looking at. That's because, at times, he was the only healthy receiver left on the field, as Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Dobson and Danny Amendola all suffered injuries. With those three back to full health this season, Tom Brady will have plenty of other options in the passing game and could spread the ball around a bit more than last year.

    What Happened

    For the first time since 2010, not a single Patriots pass-catcher finished with more than 100 catches. Julian Edelman came extremely close to 100 receptions, finishing with 92. Gronkowski also came close with 82 receptions, and Brandon LaFell finished with 74. Shane Vereen had 54.

    The Patriots had four receivers with more than 50 catches. For comparison, in 2013, there were only two players with 50 catches or more. Brady did a much better job of spreading the ball around to his receivers this year than last.

The Patriots Will Average 30 or More Points Per Game on Offense: Wrong

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    USA TODAY Sports

    What I Said

    It’s hard to believe, but even with the Patriots' early-season struggles and late-season injuries on offense in 2013, they still ranked third in points per game on offense with an average of 27.8. It was the first time since 2009 that the Patriots averaged fewer than 30 points per game.

    What Happened

    Wrong by the slimmest of margins once again, as the Patriots scored 29.25 points per game on offense for exactly 0.75 points less than my prediction.

    Make no mistake, the Patriots were once again one of the NFL's most dominant offenses, with the fourth-highest scoring attack in the NFL. In seven games from Week 5 through 12, the Patriots averaged a whopping 39.6 points per game. They also scored more than 40 points in six games this year, including in the playoffs against the Indianapolis Colts

2 Defenders Will Get 10 or More Sacks: Wrong

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    USA TODAY Sports

    What I Said

    Ideally, Jones and Ninkovich wouldn't be forced to go wire-to-wire with a full workload as often as they were in 2013, but the Patriots did not make any significant additions at their positions this offseason. Unless rookie Zach Moore and sophomore Michael Buchanan can emerge and grow into a role as an outside linebacker and/or sub-package pass-rush specialist, veterans Jones and Ninkovich could be workhorses once again.

    What Happened

    Chandler Jones got injured in Week 7 and missed six games, which pretty much put the kibosh on my prediction. There's no guarantee he would have finished with 10 sacks, as he logged six sacks in 10 games. 

    As for Rob Ninkovich, the blue-collar defensive end was the Patriots' best sack artist on the season, finishing with eight quarterback takedowns despite playing every game and once again crossing the 1,000-snap barrier for the second consecutive season.

    The Patriots will need to continue to add depth to the defensive end spot, as Zach Moore remains a work in progress and Michael Buchanan finished the season on injured reserve.

Final Record: 12-4: Right

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    What I Said

    The Patriots do face a tough schedule that features all six AFC playoff teams and an NFC playoff team, so it will not be an easy road. That being said, there's a reason that Brady and Belichick are among the best at their positions in NFL history, and they are the trump cards that make the Patriots a force yet again.

    What Happened

    Once again, the Patriots were the class of the AFC East, and they also proved to be the class of the AFC. They even took it a step further and finished the season as the class of the NFL with a Super Bowl championship. 

    The expectations for success are always lofty in Foxborough, but the Patriots lived up to the hype this year and have set themselves up for high expectations once again in 2015 and beyond.

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