New England Patriots
The Patriots finished last season 12-4 and won their 4th consecutive AFC East title. Coach Bill Belichick’s men lost to the Baltimore Ravens at home in the AFC Championship Game. It was the first time the Patriots lost the AFC Championship Game at home.
New England had the #1 overall offense in the league last season. The team ranked 7th in rushing and 4th in passing. As usual the offensive unit is led by quarterback Tom Brady. Brady is the catalyst that runs the New England offense. However, this year’s Patriots offense will look much different than last year’s offense. First off, tight end Aaron Hernandez is the guest of the Massachusetts penal system. Rob Gronkowski, the other part of the team’s 2 tight end system, is slowly recovering from back and arm injuries and could miss at least the first weeks of the season.
Wes Welker leaving for the Broncos was another key departure. Welker was Brady’s safety net and he typically caught well over 100 passes a season. Losing those 3 players will definitely have an impact going forward. Replacing Welker will be former Ram receiver Danny Amendola. Amendola is a slot receiver like Welker, but unlike Welker he’s been injury prone and inconsistent. Amendola definitely is a downgrade. The receiver corp in general has been downgraded. There is a lot of youth at the position. Brady will be throwing to some very unfamiliar faces.
Bailing out Brady will be a strong running game. Running backs Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, and LeGarette Blount will need to be a big part of this New England offense. Now, I’d be remiss to not mention another member of the Patriot offense that may have an impact this season. That player is one Timothy Richard Tebow. Wearing #5 for the Patriots, Tebow could likely see some playing time as a running quarterback, or possibly lined up in the backfield. The man can’t throw worth a damn but he’s an effective runner that could see some playing time in short yardage situations.
The 2012 Patriots team defense wasn’t very good. The team defended the run well, but ranked 29th overall in pass defense. The Patriots run a 4-3 defense and up front it’s led by long time Patriot Vince Wilfork. #75 is getting up there in age, but he still is a stout defensive tackle. Former Oakland Raider Tommy Kelly is the other defensive tackle with Rob Ninkovich and Chandler Jones at the ends. The linebacker unit is an all SEC affair with former Florida Gator Brandon Spikes at middle linebacker flanked by former Alabama Crimson Tide Donta Hightower and former Tennessee Volunteer Jared Mayo. The linebacker group is really good. Spikes, Hightower, and Mayo are highly rated.
The problem for the Patriots are in the secondary. Aquib Talib and Alfonzo Denard are shaky at the corner back position. One of those guys will need to step up their coverage game. If not then Kyle Arrington or Ras-I Dowling could start. Devin McCourty and Steve Gregory man the safety positions. Overall the front 7 of this unit is solid and should once again be able to limit the amount of yards that teams put up on the ground, but the secondary unit has to step up.
Kicker and punter is set with Stephen Gostkowski and Zoltan Mesko. The long snapper is Danny Aiken. The return slots are also set with former Jet and Seahawk Leon Washington and Julian Edelman.
The Patriots draft can be summed up in one word: unremarkable. The team had 7 selections in 4 rounds (rounds 2, 3, 4, and 7). Since the weakness of the team appears to be at the receiver spot the two rookies Patriots fans should hope to have an impact is 2nd rounder Aaron Dobson out of Marshall and 4th rounder Josh Dobson out of TCU.
New England lost a lot on offense and return a defense that wasn’t so good last season. However, do you really count out Tom Brady and Bill Belichick? Those two are like a DJ Khaled record: all they do is win! With that said, the Patriots will still win the AFC East. Why? Even with their huge question marks they are still better than a Dolphins team that should be on the rise and they are better than the Bills and Jets who both have issues at quarterback. So, I’ll put the Patriots down for 10-6 and their 5th consecutive AFC East crown.
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