New England Patriots
The best thing that can be said about the Patriots, from a non-fan perspective, is at least they gave us something to talk about this offseason. Unfortunately, it’s also the worst thing that can be said about them, as the topic of conversation was as boring as it was idiotic. When it comes to on the field topics, the Patriots gave us more than a few.
First, that defensive backfield was gutted. The only players of note remaining are Devin McCourty, who only looked good because he had Revis and Browner to cover his shortcomings, and Malcom Butler, who is only known because of one lucky interception in the Super Bowl. Otherwise, this group is absent of talent and that is going to seriously bite the Patriots on the proverbial backside in 2015. In front of the abysmal secondary is the bright spot of the defense, what is probably the best linebacker group in the division, maybe the conference. Jerod Mayo, Jamie Collins, and Don’t’a Hightower are all three studs at their respective positions. The defensive line is also solid across the board with great depth. Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich at defensive end with rookie Malcom Brown and Dominique Easley’s one good knee in the middle is actually a pretty decent group, just overshadowed by the absurdly talented defensive lines in the rest of the division. There may not be a marquee playmaker in the group, but there’s no obvious weakness either. The question about this defense is whether the front seven can make up for the back four’s shortcomings. Personally, my vote is no, not because the front seven lacks talent, but because the secondary is just that bad.
The offense… well, what more needs to be said than Brady is going to play all 16 games? I suppose one could point out that they still lack a decent running back of any kind. Or that the Patriots WR group is a veritable who’s who of “Who is that guy?”. If I were brave enough, I could also say that Brady looked pretty miserable throughout preseason, could it be that he’s finally in the decline? Or I could just speak the truth and say that Brady is going to come out Week 1 on a mission to destroy everyone who ever had anything to do with Deflategate, which is basically everyone not on the Patriots, as far as he’s concerned. Let’s face facts: as long Tom Brady is healthy and he has a couple guys like Gronk and Edelman to throw to, he’s going to produce. One thing I expect to see a lot of this year is Scott Chandler. The former Bills TE is a big body in the middle of the field and if a lot of teams focus on Gronk, then watch out for Chandler getting the ball. He’s shown he can play well in the league and with a top tier QB throwing to him, I’m excited to see what he can do. While he’s not nearly as athletic as Gronk, but he’s huge and can catch, it would not surprise me if he put up a career year in New England.
I expect the Patriots to once again ride their top tier offense and a middling defense to the division crown, though with only 11 wins instead of their customary 12 to 14. The shortage of Ws in Foxboro is due to a large increase in difficulty within in the division.