New England Patriots AFC East Preview
New England Patriots AFC East Preview:
Since the turn of the millennium the New England Patriots have won 10 out of 13 AFC East titles. The Patriots are the team to beat and have dominated the division as well as the NFL in the early 2000’s when they won three Super Bowls in four years; 2001, 2003 and 2004. In 2012 New England broke a tie with the Dolphins for most division titles; The Patriots have won 15 division titles to Miami’s 14 with the Bills on ten and the Jets on four.
Some people are suggesting that the Dolphins could be a threat to the Patriots in the AFC East but despite the fact they have improved on both sides of the ball it is rare for teams who spend big to do well on the field so despite Miami’s optimism their best hope will be to earn a wildcard spot whereas personally I see them finishing the season 8-8. The Bills are a team trying to find a new identity and their season will be judged on the production of rookie quarterback EJ Manuel so I’d predict them to finish 5-11. Meanwhile the Jets will finish 6-10 as despite having a good defense, they ranked 8th overall in 2012, they lack any spark on offense but Jets fans will be thankful that Mark Sanchez is out injured.
The main reason some are doubting the Patriots this season is because Tom Brady heads in to 2013 season without key members of a prolific offense from last year which broke the record for first downs in a season with 444 and finished third all-time in scoring, 557 points, just behind the 2011 Green Bay Packers and their own 2007 record setting season. Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez, Danny Woodhead and Brandon Lloyd have all departed while Rob Gronkowski underwent a 3rd and 4th forearm surgery this off-season as well as back surgery so his return to the field could take up until week 6 and he looks doubtful for the season opener against the Bills tomorrow.
The Patriots offense now features many new additions with most of them being rookies but preseason alone showed that Brady seems to be making it work with the likes of Kenbrell Thompkins, Aaron Dobson, Josh Boyce and Zach Sudfeld. 2nd round pick Dobson has lots of potential are notably during his senior season at college he did no record a single drop from the 92 times he was targeted. Josh Boyce and Thompkins put up impressive numbers during preseason so they could be valuable assets whilst undrafted rookie Zach Sudfield who stands at 6’7 has the ability to be a Gronk 2.0. Speaking of 2.0’s Danny Amendola was signed in favour of retaining Wes Welker’s services and the Patriots will be hoping for similar results out of Amendola with both resilient along with being quick and mobile. Amendola is also a fellow Texas Tech product and after building up a good rapport with Tom Brady it is safe to say he should fit in to the Patriots’ offensive system quickly. Brady has a knack for bringing the best out of his receivers which is a skill not many quarterbacks have and if he manages to produce great results out of this unknown group and win a 4th Super Bowl ring too he may certainly cement his place as the greatest QB to ever play the game. This is backed up by the fact that he holds the league record for most touchdown passes in the regular season with 50, has the most playoff wins in NFL history with 17, has the third highest career passer rating of all-time (96.6) and after breaking Joe Montana’s playoff wins record also became the first NFL quarterback in history to guide his team to 10 divisional titles; With Joe Montana he’s one of only two quarterbacks in history to win the regular season MVP and Super Bowl MVP as well as being one of only two QB’s to lead their teams to 5 Super Bowls (3 wins) along with John Elway.
When you take the fact that this offense is led by head coach Bill Belichick, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and Tom Brady even when you throw an unknown group of players in with them if anything it is scarier for their opponents as without the players who departed they won’t know what to expect which is what still makes the Patriots a genuine Super Bowl contender. Their running game is dangerous and will improve whereas New England’s defense doesn’t get enough credit for the fact that they have finished in the top 10 in points allowed for six of the past seven years. After drafting the likes of linebacker Jamie Collins in the second round from the 2013 draft and adding him to a young talented group of players that include the likes of Chandler Jones, Dont’a Hightower as well as defensive leaders Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes this could be one of the Patriots’ most talented defensive groups in years. With Aqib Talib signing a new contract he will be a real asset in the secondary and help this underrated defense improve in an area where they have been pretty vulnerable for the past two seasons. MetLife stadium is the aim for many teams for the 2013 season but when you assess the New England Patriots it is clear to see that they are one of the frontrunners to represent the AFC at Super Bowl and clinch a fifth consecutive AFC East title.
Season prediction: 12-4. 1st in AFC East.