Tom Brady and the New England Patriots won the AFC East and made the playoffs
comfortably last season despite being hit by a significant number of injuries.
This season the Patriots are looking to return to the very top of the game by winning yet another Superbowl. Can they do it though?
Key Man: Robert Gronkowski
Gronkowski is the best tight end in the NFL and yes, I am including Jimmy Graham in that statement. The fact that he is going to be fit week one in Miami means that Tom Brady and the New England Patriots are going to have their best weapon on the pitch.
Gronkowski averaged 15.2 yards per reception last season and had clocked up 592
yards before the injury curtailed his season. Despite his injuries I still expect to see Gronkowski perform at a similar level this year.
If he stays fit, and regrettably it is a big if, the Patriots will get easily 1000+ yards out of him this year and he will lead them deep into the playoffs. If Gronkowski gets injured then the Patriots Superbowl chances might be gone with him.
Biggest Strength: Cornerbacks
This offseason the Patriots front office has focused on improving the defense bringing in a number of key players.
The biggest splash of all came with the acquisition of ex-Jet Darrelle Revis. With Revis setting up a no fly zone on one half of the pitch, the Patriots already figure to have a top level secondary. With 6"4'' 221 pound Brandon Browner on the other side of the pitch though, throwing the ball away from Revis does not present an easy option for opposition offenses.
It is true of course that Browner is suspended for the first four games of the season but as will be explained below that is hardly likely to be a big problem for the Patriots. The Patriots secondary could be something special this season.
Biggest Weakness: Running Game
Every time Steven Ridley fumbles the ball the decision not to pay LeGarrette Blount enough money to keep him at the Patriots looks more and more ill thought out. The Patriots do not make many mistakes with personnel but it hard not to think that this is one.
The other running backs on the Patriots roster, Shane Vereen and James White, are passing down backs rather than true rushing backs. Ridley then, is pretty much the Patriots only rushing weapon.
That is a problem.
Schedule Review: Does Bill Belicheck write the Patriots schedule?
Out of all other 'elite' teams in the NFL i.e. teams that have realistic chances of winning the Superbowl, the Patriots have the easiest schedule. In the first four weeks they are at the Dolphins, at the Vikings, home to the Raiders and at the Chiefs. Worse case scenario the Patriots come out of that run 3-1 but 4-0 seems far more likely.
The rest of the schedule has a few tough games against the Bengals, Broncos and
Packers but the Patriots will comfortably win the AFC North.