The NFL Draft is now over, and now is the time for bloggers to make ridiculous statements like ‘the Patriots will win the AFC’. Well, I really do think that they will win it next season. Obviously there are a lot of things that have yet to happen (like actually see the Patriots on the field) but I have loved what they have done this offseason and I believe that it will lead to a birth in next years Super Bowl.
There are three main reasons why I believe that they will be the champions of the AFC. The first is that their defense is going to be much improved in 2013. The Patriots total defensive rank in 2011 was 31st and last year they ranked 25th, and yet they still went to the AFC Championship game and the Super Bowl in both of those seasons. The Patriots reloaded their defense in the offseason by resigning cornerback Aqib Talib, signing safety Adrian Wilson, drafting corner Logan Ryan and signing defensive tackle Tommy Kelly. There are also rumors that the Pats are ‘likely’ going to sign defensive end John Abraham. No matter what happens with the Abraham situation, the Patriots defense is going to be much improved in 2013. Their run defense was solid in 2012 and will continue to be anchored by Vince Wilfork in the middle, and arguably the best run stopping trio of linebackers in the NFL with Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, and Dont’a Hightower. The main issue that this defense has had is the secondary; however their troubles could possibly be over. The safety position is now a strength for them with Devin McCourty and Adrian Wilson roaming in the backfield. McCourty will be a very good safety, and in a few years he could be one of the best safeties in the league. He is not a very physical guy, but he has great ball skills and he does a great job at keeping everything in front of him and limiting the big plays. Wilson is the perfect complement to McCourty because he is a very physical guy. Wilson will bring the hammer when he tackles you and this is what I love about him. He can be the ‘intimidator’ of a defense, and that is something that has been missing from this Patriots defense. As for the cornerbacks, I think that this position is more solid than it has ever been in the last couple of years. They have the play-maker Aqib Talib on one side, and then one of the best young corners in the league in Alfonzo Dennard. Both of these guys are very talented corners and bring great man coverage to the table for New England. They both make it very tough for receivers to get separation and that is exactly what you want to see in a cornerback. Add in rookie Logan Ryan, and veteran Kyle Arrington and I think the Patriots secondary will be much improved in 2013. If this unit can play up to their potential, I believe that they can be a top 10 defense in this league. When the Patriots were winning their championships in the early 2000′s, their defense was always near the top of the NFL. Next year’s team may have that same type of defense once again.
The second reason why I think the 2013 Patriots will go back to the Super Bowl is because of the new guys in the offense. We know what the Patriots offense did last year with Gr0nk, Hernandez, Steven Ridley, Wes Welker, and Brandon Lloyd. At times they were unstoppable, and that is what got them to the AFC Championship game. However, there was something missing from the offense and I think we all know what that was, a vertical threat at receiver. Brandon Lloyd played very well for them, but he is not the type of guy that will take the top off of a defense anymore. Because the Pats didn’t have a guy to blow past the defense, their offense got bogged down at times. Defenses just clogged up the middle of the field, and the tight ends and Wes Welker got slowed down. But now I believe that the Patriots may have the guy to do this for them in Aaron Dobson. Now I know that he is only a rookie, but I am really excited about this guy. As I said multiple times over the weekend, Dobson is a big receiver that has enough speed to get over the top of defenses. The Patriots haven’t had a young guy that has the skills of Dobson at receiver in quite a long time (if ever). I think that Dobson will be able to take some of the pressure off of Gronkowski, Hernandez, Amendola and Ridley… and the running game. Speaking of Amendola, I also love him being added to the Pats because I think that if he is given time, he may be able to be better in this offense than Welker was. He is much more athletic than Wes was and he is also a lot younger. Now, he is not nearly as durable as Welker is, and he doesn’t have the chemistry that Welker had with Brady, but eventually I think he will get there and the results will be special. Amendola never had guys like Gronk and Hernandez in Saint Louis, and he still managed to put up good numbers (when he was healthy). With these guys at his side in New England, I think he will put up monster numbers and help the Pats offense reach new heights.
The last reason I think the Pats will be able to reach the Super Bowl next season is because the AFC is going to be pretty weak next year. I was looking down the list of viable contenders in the AFC, and none of them jumped off of the page at me. The only teams that I could bring myself to call “contenders” were the Broncos, and the Texans. Both of these teams have big weaknesses. For the Broncos, they are far too reliant on Peyton to win games for them. Their running game is pretty awful, and therefore most of the pressure is on Manning to play a perfect game. The Broncos defense is much improved, but they still have holes in their secondary that a quarterback like Brady would pick apart. The Texans main weakness is the fact that Matt Schaub is their quarterback. He is just not a “big time” quarterback in this league. He cracks under pressure, and if you have a quarterback like that you won’t be going far any time soon. Their secondary was also exposed by Brady two times last season, and that will have to be fixed if they want to get to the next level in this league. If the Pats were matched up with either of these teams in a playoff matchup in January, then I would pick the Patriots to beat both of them. Brady would easily put up 30+ on both of these teams because his weapons are much better than their secondary players. I think the Pats defense would at least put the Peyton and Schaub attack ‘on hold’ and that would propel them to a victory. The Pats are overall a better team, and they have the ultimate trump card when it comes to playoff games. They have Belichick and Brady, and nobody in the NFL can come close on quarterback/coach combinations.
Obviously a lot can happen in the next eight months, but if the Patriots are able to stay relatively healthy I feel confident that they will reach the Super Bowl next year. They are just going to be too talented of a team for any other AFC squad to take them down.