2017 Season Previews: New England Patriots

It’s Patriot Time!

Offense: It all begins and ends with Tom Brady. The guy is just a machine, and the second best QB I have ever laid my eyes on. Yes, I’m still taking Montana first. That’s an argument for another day, but still. Brady is the best QB in the game, and the only think I think will slow him down is a desire to go out on top and go home to his wife. He went 11-1, tossed 28 TDs and only 2 picks. I think he’s pretty damn good. Chris Hogan came over from the Bills and got 38 catches and 4 TDs, so the Pats went out and got Brandin Cooks, the wife is a Saints fan, and let me tell you, draft this guy early in fantasy, if he stops his whining. Brandin whined about the way Brees sprayed the ball around, and he would have lead this team. Julian Edelman is the only guy to crack over 1100 yards, and 1000 yards, and 900, and 800 and the next high guy got 702. The other target to worry about is the GRONK. Who is healthy is a beast, but he’s had some serious back problems lately, and Martellus Bennett is gone as his rental agreement was up, and Dwayne Allen is in for the number 2 job there. Considering Bennett got 7 TDs, might want to keep an eye on this position as well. The offensive line is a bit interesting, as they are all capable, but none are really outstanding other than Marcus Cannon, who actually got a 5 year deal, and you never know how someone is going to play in year one of a long contract. Running back is going to be fun, as LeGarrette Blount is gone to Philly, taking a massive 18TDs with him, but the Pats are looking to replace him with James White, who got a 3 year contract, Rex Burkhead, and Mike Gillislee. I think Gillislee is going to emerge as the primary back, and get the lion’s share of the early down carries, and White stay in his third down role.

Defense: The Patriots again struggled to get a good pass rush going, but with that offense, they can roll out a defense that bends a whole lot but doesn’t break, and Brady rarely gives them a short feild. Kony Ealy is the next guy and he can generate a pass rush on his own, and Trey Flowers had his best year last year. Malcom Brown is the guy who needs to get moving here, and I have to think this might be his last year. The linebackers are great against the run, again showing they don’t worry too much about the pass upfront. Landon Roberts is the guy to watch for here, as he was a stunner last year, and will be looking to take a bigger role this year on running downs. The secondary is solid, and got better with the addition of Stephon Gillmore, who is big and can hit as well. This might be the only secondary in the NFL that can lose the top guy and not really lose a step. The Pats have depth and versatility, and that allows the front seven to worry about the run, but does hinder them as when a passing down comes up, the Pats flip to a nickel defense with the quickness. It does hurt the cohesion, but how many rings does The Hoodie have the last few years? I don’t think many teams could pull this off. The major question is do the Pats deal with Malcolm Butler or trade him away? Loud guys in the press don’t tend to stick around in Foxboro.

Special Teams: Solid, as always. Stephen Gostkowki missed 5 extra points, however, but the Pats must think that’s just a hiccup as he has been solid and his kickoffs haven’t lost anything. Coverage units are above average, and if Brandin Cooks wants the ball more, he might step up a very good return game, but that would take the ball out of Dion Lewis’ hands, and that’s not a good thing.

Overall: Pick a game they lose. The Pats do tend to let a game or so slip by when they are not paying attention, or the Hoodie feels like someone needs a lesson (you explain a 16-0 loss to Buffalo) Games to worry about include at New Orleans, Carolina early, and Oakland in Mexico City. Pittsburgh in Late December might be your best bet to see a Pats loss, or the Raiders Rematch in the Playoffs. Keep in mind the Pats close the season with Buffalo and the Jets, both at home, so I’ll take that Pittsburgh game as the only loss. 15-1.

Three Questions

1. Betting your paycheck, when do the Pats lose, if at all?

Joe: (1) I ain’t betting my paycheck. Ever. (2) Maybe either on December 11th at Miami or December 17th at Pittsburgh.

David: Pittsburgh. The Pats will be 13-0, its a team they will see in the playoffs, so the Hoodie is only going to use the even numbered pages of the playbook, and Brady might need a breather. Closing with 2 cupcakes lets them get the rotation healthy for a playoff push.

Dan: I think they lose. It’s hard to go 16-0 in a regular season game, no matter how you compare teams on paper. It’s just bound to happen at least once. The Patriots 18-1 season and the Dolphins perfect regular season are exceptions. I can’t see New England doing it again. They’ll lose one. Atlanta, at Oakland, and at Pittsburgh are all tough games. Pittsburgh, in Pittsburgh, is an extremely tough match-up for any team. Atlanta can really be looking for revenge and topple New England in a Super Bowl rematch. They’ll lose one.

2. Is Butler going to survive the win with his contract complaining and Gilmore being added?

Joe: He can if he doesn’t let the fact that the Patriots went out and got someone at his position and signed them to a long-term deal after they told his agent they weren’t doing long term deals for corners and they tendered him for a tad under $4 mil. He need to play to his potential land beyond to do oen of two things… either get the contract he wants or allow Belichick to trade his ass to a team that needs his corner skills (Packers?) and get the max in return.

David: As long as they need him. If Gillmore can take his job, Butler could be gone by the trade deadline, as I said above, they might drop a slight bit, but they still have the best secondary outside of Denver in the AFC.

Dan: Yes, Butler survives and becomes a dynamic part of their defense along with Gilmore. I think he’ll play with something to prove, won’t say anything about the contract and really show his true worth and he’ll stay, making New England have one of the top secondaries in the league.

3. Suppose the Pats go 19-0, does Tom Brady ride off to the sunset?

Joe: Brady ain’t going anywhere.

The only way he would even think about retiring are (1) Belichick thinks he is losing it and will simply take off to the side and tell him that and allow him to go out gracefully, (2) he gets a serious injury that will limit his ability to be the QB he wants to be or (3)… and probably the one with the most potential for him to call it quits… he suffers a  concussion that places him on the sidelines and his wife says “Enough. You are through. I need someone to be able to perform off the field and not be a lump on a log.”

David: I could see it, back to back with a perfect record. I just can’t see him playing out the string in Denver or Houston, and I don’t know if the Pats want to see him at the age of 43 having to put up with questions about him taking snaps away from Jacoby Brissett.

Dan: No, I don’t think so. I think he plays for a couple more seasons. If he’s 19-0, it’s likely the Patriots keep their core and improve, or just stay the same and have a favor once again, to go perfect. I don’t think Belichick wants to give up yet either. They’ll quit at the same time. And it’ll change not only New England, but the NFL completely.

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