Week 16 at Baltimore Ravens:
A December Sunday night in Baltimore screams playoff football, but for New England, with the AFC East wrapped up the game is not all about revenge, as that is best served in the playoffs. Baltimore would be highly motivated at home with a three way race in the AFC North between the Ravens, the Cincinnati Bengals and the resurgent Pittsburgh Steelers. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco may have lost two of his top weapons in slot receiver Anquan Boldin via free agency and tight end Dennis Pitta to injury, but wide receivers Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones are both dangerous weapons. Add in their strong running game, which may be improved more with Bernard Pierce’s young legs taking carries from an aging Ray Rice, and the Ravens will continue to be a tough team to beat on the road.
Prediction: Patriots 20 – Baltimore 24 Record: 11-4.
Week 17 vs. Buffalo Bills:
The Bills are deep in the rebuilding process this season. With former New York Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine to replace Dave Wannstedt and head coach Doug Marrone replacing Chan Gailey and bringing in offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett the franchise appears headed in the right direction. Unfortunately for Buffalo, it is a process for new general manager Doug Whaley to restock the roster and make the team a threat to the Patriots in the AFC East. With a first round bye on the line, the Patriots will come ready to play in their regular season finale as Buffalo readies for year two of their rebuilding efforts.
Prediction: Patriots 38 – Buffalo 17 Record: 12-4.
So twelve wins is what the crystal ball shows for the Patriots this season. With a healthy Rob Gronkowski, a rejuvenated Tom Brady, a stable of young, athletic pass catchers and a strong running game the offense should continue to thrive. As has been the case over the past five years in New England, there are question marks on the defensive side of the ball, although the stability in the secondary, the strong SEC trio of linebackers, and addition of free agent defensive tackle Tommy Kelly could lead to a strong defense that may surprise the rest of the NFL. At this time, twelve wins and four losses appear to be likely for the New England Patriots. More wins? Less wins? Readers, what does your crystal ball show for the Patriots in 2013?