Jan 20, 2013; Foxboro, MA, USA; New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez (81) runs out on the field before the start of the AFC championship game against the Baltimore Ravens at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

New England Patriots’ Fans Shouldn’t Worry About Regression in 2013


Like many of you, I spend much of my free time surfing and clicking around the internet looking for different takes, spins and opinions on my team. I am a Patriots fan — as die-hard as they come. As such, I try to distance myself from writing too much on the team in fear of being perceived as a “homer.” I don’t think I’m a homer, as I’ve been vocal in the past about some things that I felt could have been done better in Foxboro, both on and off the field. In my opinion, a true homer is one who sees only cupcakes, unicorns and rainbows when he sees his team.

That just isn’t me.

Having said that, I was a bit shocked to read a post by James Walker on ESPN’s AFC East Blog this past week. Walker’s take on whether or not the 2013 Patriots would be better than the 2012 Patriots had the feel of someone who was reaching for a reason to knock a great organization down a notch. James Walker is a great writer, especially when it comes to his Miami Dolphin coverage. I have the utmost respect for him as a professional and respect his opinion — I just happen to disagree with just about everything he said about the 2013 Patriots.

Let us first establish that nobody really knows how this or any other season is going to pan out until the players actually take the field. That’s Day-1 stuff. That said, anyone who wants to offer up an opinion and be taken seriously must not have tunnel vision in regard to a topic, unless the entire intent is to get under someone’s skin. To Walker’s credit, he got under mine as a New England fan and I think that was his goal.

James Walker listed five reasons that the New England Patriots would not, in fact, do as well in 2013 as they did in 2012.

He cited too many changes at receiver as Reason No. 1. Come again? The history of the Patriots with Tom Brady under center is full of nothing but changes at the wide receiver position. The six consecutive years Wes Welker spent catching passes from Tom Brady is the longest stretch that any Patriot receiver has spent in New England during the Brady era. The last time there was as much turnover at the position as the Patriots have heading into 2013, they went 16-0 during the regular season. Receiver turnover has never been an issue in Foxboro.

Walker goes on to mention injuries as his second reason the 2013 Patriots will fall short of 2012. He then mentions only Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman. Edelman is a great guy to have around and brings depth, but he is not nor has he ever been considered a catalyst for New England’s success. As far as Gronkowski, yes — he is an elite weapon that makes New England a more formidable offensive threat. Having said that, New England rattled off 33 points a game in the final six games without Gronkowski, losing only to San Francisco.

Reason No. 3 applies to every player in the NFL — age. We all age, even NFL players. All of them. I’m not worried about Brady losing any athleticism that changes his game in a six month span. Tom Brady being one year older will have very little to do with anything. Walker even threw in a link to Ryan Clark’s “seeing ghosts” comment. I remember the last time a member of the Steeler secondary talked smack about Brady. That didn’t end well for that guy.

I actually agree with Walker’s fourth reason — a tougher schedule. I don’t like the idea of playing Denver, Atlanta, Houston, and Cincy (who incidentally is my sleeper team for 2013). Then he goes and mentions the Steelers. Unless New England is playing  Terry Bradshaw’s Steelers from the 1970′s, I don’t consider them a threat. They’ll be lucky to finish third in their own division.

James Walker wraps up his piece with a 5th Reason that the Patriots will fail to have the same success in 2013 as they had in 2012: The AFC East is Stronger. Really? How so? The Dolphins signed an average linebacker away from Baltimore and a deep threat that everyone will key on. In the meantime, they lost their best running back and their franchise offensive tackle. The Bills bring in a new coach with no NFL head coaching experience and possibly a rookie starting quarterback by mid-season. The Jets? They’re still the Jets.

The lesson in all of this is that we the fans have a better grasp on our team and its strengths and weaknesses than anyone else, including an ESPN AFC East blogger. The nearly 1000 comments on Walker’s article tell me that he succeeded in grabbing the attention of the average Patriots fan — and more power to him for that. All you have to know is that the New England Patriots have been and continue to be one of the most stable organizations in professional sports. The have a legend as a head coach and a legend under center. You don’t have to worry about the wheels falling off the wagon in New England because the wagon is always fully stocked with spare parts.

Until Bill Belichick packs up his hoody and Tom Brady rides off into the California sunset, I wouldn’t worry about what anyone says about the Patriots, especially in the month of May. Then again, if I followed my own advice, I probably wouldn’t have written what you just read.

Oh well. Go Pats!

  • http://twitter.com/HialeahFinFan Pete

    I’m a die hard Dolphins fan & I couldn’t agree with you more. The Patriots are the “Kings of the Hill” regardless who they have for receiver. They do have 2 rather large bumps in the road, 1st is the schedule which is just like Miami’s. The 2nd is Gronowski. Other than that there is no way to compare the teams performance. Bills & Jets don’t scare me but as we all know “Any given Sunday……..Thursday, Monday”. With that being said mark your calendars, 8/27/2013, we can say whos who them.
    Phins up!

    • John

      Im just really happy they finally have two new TALL receivers for reach and deep threat. Havent had that since Moss left. I think competitors are going to fear deep down the field and leave Amendola or Hernandez open. Welker is a fantastic player and tough but I made a bet with everyone that he wont have nearly as much yards as he did with Brady. Manning likes to throw long and will spread the ball more. Welker will never beat the yards he had with new england. Both Brady and Welker made welker a star. If Amendola stays healthy watch him become a star thanks to Brady. And if he does youl then know theres something about this patriots QB. Love our new safety too. P.s. they should throw the ball to Vareen more, boy man can run. Who new? Go Pats!!

      • John

        Oh one more thing ive been thinking about. Every team and every player knows that when they play against patriots its Brady to Welker, and Brady to Welker, then Brady to Welker. I mean they even know what we are going to do but still cant prepare for it or stop it. Its like they have our playbook and still cant stop Brady. What will it be like for competitors with our whole new offense and they dont have our playbook anymore? Things that make you say hmm..

  • Willy W

    Im not sure if the writer of this column actually reads what the “Peanut Gallery” has to say but I wanted to say this, Well done… nice article.
    Now for my opinion, I didnt read James Walker’s article but I get a pretty good sense of what was said by what was written here. With that said my opinion is this:
    How many times does Tom Brady, (one of the greatest QB’s to have Ever played), need to show, prove to people, that he can get the job done with next to nothing for Receivers. If you look back, (and yes I know he was much younger then), but if you look back to when he was winning superbowls, just look at the names of the Wide Receivers & in some cases the Tight Ends. Can you even remember most of their names w/o looking them up? That is because those Receivers were No Name players that Tom turned into something, not the other way around. And as long as Tom is still playing at a high level he will continue to propel this team, this offense into a winning, if not dominating team.
    The schedule, I myself enjoy “Predicting” what each team will finish with for a record. Its a little game I play by examining what each team has for strengths n weaknesses vs the teams they play against & so on. Suprisingly I am pretty accurate most of the time. So just to give you an idea but w/o looking up what I have written down, I usually project the Pats to finish with a Record of around 12-4 & they are almost always around that mark.
    Now looking at the other teams in our division ( Laughing out Loud) the Only team I see with clear Improvements is Miami. BUT they have made alot of changes & when a team makes alot of changes it either ends poorly or it takes quite a while for all the new parts to gel with the existing parts. You also have to look at Miami’s QB. He is NO Tom Brady. With that being said how could any analyst, media member… seriously think that this team can challenge NE for the division? Not gonna happen. Right at this moment & w/o going over my notes, I would project the Dolphins to go 8-8. I question whether Miami has the right QB to ever become a serious threat to the Pats.
    Age, I dont see age as necessarily being a huge factor either way, too young or too old as long as you have somewhat of a mix. If you have a team full of 23 year olds theyll probably make alot of mistakes. If you have a team full of 35 + year olds then theyll probably have more injuries & fatique may play a factor. I dont see any team within our division that is clearly all young or all old, SO that throws any talk of age out the window IMO.
    Gronk, the ONLY way Gronk not playing will hurt the Pats is if Brady gets “Fixated” on just throwing the ball to him, always looking for him, like he did with Welker. IMO losing Welker will effect Tom way more than losing Gronk. I would rather miss Gronk for the first half of the season, get that arm 100% & be available for the playoffs as an added weapon, then watch him go in & out of the lineup because IMO that effects Tom more than anything as it modifies the plays he can call per game. And in many ways Gronk can be replaced more so then Welker. Now Danny A- is supposed to be the air’ apparent, or however you spell it, but Danny really isnt. Im ok with this because as I said Tom would get too fixated on Wes & overlook at times a more wide open Receiver. My Only worry with Danny, just like Julian, is can these guys stay healthy?
    But 1 of the great things about what Bill & Josh have done is add alot of depth, both in Receivers & at Running back. With this depth, TB12 at QB, I dont worry about our offense all that much at all & fully expect to be able to continue to score. I dont however expect a huge contribution ( at least the 1st year) from the Rookie Wide Receivers, which is ok because I believe we have so much Depth in other areas it wont matter that much & it will allow us to bring the kids along more slowly vs throwing them into the fire & expecting everything out of them right away. That to me would be a mistake but I dont believe thats what they will do.
    Honestly the Only areas that still concern me ( but there’s still time to address it) are on Defense. I still feel as though we MUST add a Pass Rusher/ DE. My pick would be to sign John Abraham who I think would be the Perfect mentor to the younger players. John has had a very good career & IMO can still bring it. Id like Bill to not be “Cheap” and sign Abraham already.
    With the Depth we have at Defense & IF we can sign Abraham, then I believe we will be just as much if not more of a threat, a more “Complete” team, this year than we have been in years. And Miami can go pound Sand!

    • http://twitter.com/JPScottSports J.P. Scott

      I do read the comments, Willy, and thank you. Great insight on your part. Thanks for reading Musker Fire!

  • http://sbpra.com/paulvsuffriti Paul V. Suffriti

    Hard to blame a Miami writer or a Miami fan for being optimistic. They have the potential for having a season above 500. The problem is that they need to put down the best team in the AFC EAST to uplift their own team. We have a QB that can lead our team to victory while they still have an unproven QB. A team’s successful performance is directly linked to the QB. Brady is still the best QB in the AFC EAST…… and maybe in the entire NFL.