Tom Brady has seen a lot in his decorated NFL career. From multiple Super Bowl’s to league MVP’s to NFL records, Brady has seen the light. But beyond that, Brady has dealt with mental, emotional and physical tests. Close friends being traded/released, the passing of longtime throwing coach Tom Martinez, and a season-ending knee injury headline the negatives. From a pure football perspective, this season is Brady’s toughest test. But overall, the man has overcome greater challenges.
It was Herb Brooks, the legendary U.S. hockey coach who said “Great moments are born from great opportunities.” That describes the situation for Brady and Belichick this season. Offensively, the Pats have no where near the talent they did in the past few seasons. I expect the RB’s to be leaned on heavily, but offensive success will be determined by Brady. With that being said, I think the division still belongs to New England. The Buffalo Bills and New York Jets are in transition stages (if you can call it that for NY). The Dolphins stand the biggest chance to dethrone the Patriots as AFC East champions. I like what Miami has for offensive weapons, but there are a few big question marks, namely the offensive line. Dolphins linebacker Dannell Ellerbe has a little more faith in his team than I do. I like the Dolphins to take a run at a wildcard spot, not an AFC East title. Miami is definitely a team to watch for the near future. They are young, talented, and on the rise.
The Patriots finally have the defensive talent they have been missing. For the last five seasons, it was all about offensive firepower and record-breaking numbers. In the early years of the dynasty, the Patriots had a stout defense and a savvy offense. I’m hoping that will be mirrored in the 2013 season. Last season the Patriots starting lineup looked like a Pro Bowl roster. But Brandon Lloyd was a disappointment; Gronk, Hernandez and Edelman all missed time with injuries. The offense rarely operated at full strength, but still moved with incredible force. The real problem lies in the defense: they were far too inconsistent. Teams exposed the Patriots defense through the air and found rhythm in the passing game. The only thing that impressed me was the amount of turnovers they forced. It would be nice to see that again this season, and hopefully they can contain the deep ball a little better.
It seems like every year Brady is required to put up 30+ points on Sunday to have a real shot at a W. It goes well until the playoffs, when a team like the Ravens shows up and slows down the offense while exposing the defense. This season will be different. It won’t be a touchdown after touchdown shootout like it has been in the past. This season will be about the defense stepping up, and Brady making the most of the players around him. That’s how New England won championships in the past. In the last Super Bowl winning season, how many games did the Patriots score over 30 points?…. If you said five, then you’re probably the only person to get that right. Defensively, they only allowed ONE team to get over 30. If this season is anything like 2004, then I am confident the Patriots will have success.
As the roster stands today, Brady will be lining up behind the best O-line in the game. He will be handing the ball off to powerful, talented backs. However, he will be throwing the ball to mostly unproven wide receivers. There is no doubt Amendola can be a top 5 slot receiver when healthy, but outside of that is a bunch of rookies and second tier veterans. But we have seen Brady do more with less. I expect one of these other WR’s to have a big year, and I’m hoping it is Aaron Dobson. Jake Ballard could go down as one of Belichick’s finest acquisitions, and maybe this year will be Gronk’s first healthy postseason since 2010 (his rookie season). Brady will have his hands full revamping the offense. But I don’t expect the Patriots to have a significant drop-off in production. They will just have to succeed with the blue-print that won them three big games.