We are just a few days away from the football season and it is time to preview this coming year for the New England Patriots.
The AFC East will not offer much competition to Bill Belichick and the rest of the Patriots. None of the clubs within the division made any significant improvements. In face that Pats may have had the most drastic face-lift with the signings of Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner, Brandon LaFell, the trading of Logan Mankins, and the healthy (so far) return of Rob Gronkowski.
While there were other moves that team made this offseason, these are the ones that stand out. With the addition of more cornerbacks, it looks like the Patriots are tuning up for another matchup with the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship Game and I think that is where this team’s season ends again.
Health is usually the greatest concern for every team in the NFL, but the Pats are depending on certain players with checkered injury histories. We all know what Gronk is capable of, but the man has to stay on the field for 16 games or so to make this offensive really dynamic. Wide receiver Danny Amendola seems to never play a full season, and with a relatively thin receiving corps, Amendola must be around late in the year to make opposing secondaries spread out so teams can’t focus heavily on Gronk and Julian Edelman.
While the offense may have its struggles getting into the end zone this year, the defense may be one of the best the Patriots have put together in recent memory. The secondary is going to bother receivers and the tackling from that part of the squad may be impeccable. The front seven should also be great, but it depends on health as much as any group in the league.
Vince Wilfork returns after missing most of last year, and without his presence in the middle, the defense has little chance to be tops in the league. More injury-concern hovers around middle linebacker Jerod Mayo, who also missed significant time in 2013. Their first-round pick, defensive lineman Dominique Easley is already playing injured and should be ready for Week One, but who knows how healthy he will be throughout the year.
All-in-all, there is no doubt that Pats are a shoe-in for the AFC Divisional Round with the limited competition they face from the rest of the AFC. Outside of the Broncos, only the Indianapolis Colts may fight New England for a first-round bye, but I would be shocked if they are beaten out by Andrew Luck and co.
Expect another opportunity to get to the promised land for the Patriots this season, and be prepared to get your anti-Peyton Manning materials ready for their showdown this coming December.