With all the escapades during this year’s offseason, the New England Patriots have been counted out as a playoff contender by many major analysts. The Patriots have been on the losing side of both Free Agency and the NFL Draft while the rest of the AFC East only improved. While the Patriots have only been losing valuable assets, the Jets and the Bills have acquired new quarterbacks, and the Dolphins have revamped their offense. Their chances of winning the division seem lower, so do they even have a chance at the championship?
The answer: yes, but to an extent. Though the Patriots have no wide receivers on their roster that have caught passes last year and are missing their top two tight ends, Tom Brady will shine through. Don’t believe me? Look at the Patriots’ 2006 season. They had a mediocre receiving corps and a desolated team due to the departure of many key players. Brady went on to do magic that year, and managed to lead to team to a 12-4 record only to lose in the divisional championship.
This year, not only do the Patriots have an improved defense, they have a new offensive powerhouse: their running back corps. Led by Stevan Ridley, the Patriots’ halfbacks are an extremely underrated bunch. The combination of the speed of Ridley, the versatility of Vereen and Washington, and the power of Blount and Bolden is going to be deadly for opposing defenses this year. That, combined with the consideration of Brady’s skill set is going to make a lot of defenses confused.
On the other hand, the Patriots are in worse shape than they have been in previous years. Again, it all comes down to the mediocre receiving corps. The bad management decisions in choosing not to bring back Wes Welker and to replace him with a less durable slot receiver instead (Danny Amendola), and the hits to the tight end position (Gronk’s surgeries and Hernandez’s situation) have put the Patriots in a less than favorable position. The receivers are dependent on the quarterback, and the quarterback is dependent on the receivers. That’s just how it goes. Brady may be able to make receivers look much better than they actually are, but if they can’t produce, the Patriots are in big trouble.
So, regardless of what any analyst tells you, at this point no one knows whether the Patriots are in good shape for the season or not. They might fall as in 2006 and be back for vengeance as in 2007, or they may win it all. There is much to find out but little that is known, so we will keep you posted as training camp goes on.