The New England Patriots offseason was full of drama and intrigue. Will Gronk retire? Does Brady hate Belichick? Is Belichick quitting the Patriots? Record scratch, nothing actually changed. The Patriots are still the same offensive juggernaut and stable franchise they have been for the past ten years. This tired storyline needs to disappear. Anyone who buys it is just ignoring history the Patriots have just as good a shot as ever to win the Lombardi. That being said, this year feels a little different, like they may have to work for it a little harder. No doubt about it, everyone in Foxboro is up to the task.
Tom Brady returns. Honestly, this is the hardest QB to write about. What else is there to say other than he’s the greatest of all time and only getting better with age. Last year somehow Brady’s mobility ticked up at near age forty. The QB had an MVP season and completely dominated the league yet again. Is this Brady’s last year will be the biggest question though? If he makes a run at a championship and the Pats take the Super Bowl, there is no doubt in my mind this is his last year in New England. Honestly, I hate Tom Brady and I hope this is his last season but somewhere deep down when he’s gone I’m going to miss him. Sometimes you just have to appreciate greatness.
The Patriots have a problem at wideout early. Julian Edelman is suspended the first three games of the season, Brandin Cooks is now a Ram and Malcolm Mitchell is slated to be released. Chris Hogan should have a larger role this year and a player to watch is Braxton Berrios. Berrios fits the Belichick mold for an undersized wideout who could do real damage in the slot. Early in the season a lot of the weight of this offense will fall onto Rob Gronkowski. You can at this point in his career argue Gronk is the best tight end of all time and make a pretty strong case for it. Last year he had one of his best statistical seasons and stayed healthy. If he can do the same this year though even if the Pats passing game may struggle early, they should take off by October.
The Patriots running game is perhaps the deepest it has been over the past decade this year. That starts with an immediate improvement on the offensive line by adding Isaiah Wynn the star Georgia Tackle who will most likely slot in at tackle for the Patriots. The backfield includes former Bengal star Jeremy Hill and rookie running back stud Sony Michel. Those are the additions the rest of last year’s backfield outside Dion Lewis remains intact. I have no doubt Belichick can turn Hill back into an elite running back. Then add in Sony Michel as a potential ball cow back, and you have a completely new complexion for the Patriots offense. This may be the first year in a while where the Patriots rely heavily on the run, they certainly have the players to do so.
The Patriots have a concerning defense though. Let’s start with the best part of the defense which is clearly the run stuffers on the defensive line. Malcolm Brown and Adrian Clayborn will anchor the defensive line for the Patriots. If Belichick can turn around the career of former first-round pick Danny Shelton he can be an elite run stopper and a great value pick up from the Browns. I think the Patriots legitimately have a chance to be one of the best-run stuffing defenses in the league especially with Don’t’a Hightower. On the flip side though they don’t have a clear pass rusher. Perhaps Deatrich Wise? However, he wasn’t consistent enough last year to make a real impact. The secondary is spotty and looks a lot like the same one that got torched by Nick Foles in the Super Bowl. Adding Jason McCourty helps but outside of him I have trouble seeing why I should believe in the secondary.
The Patriots remain one of the best franchises in the league, but the team’s window is closing, no doubt about it. This could be the year the Patriots are playing on wild-card weekend although I doubt that very much. The offense is too talented, and the AFC is too weak to compete with the Patriots.
Record Prediction: 11-5