How about that for a surprise?
Now I know this prediction is a lot like saying that the sky is blue, but we still have a long time until the season begins, which leaves us with way too much time to make predictions. So instead of going all out at the beginning of June, I have decided to make a minor prediction now, and gradually work my way up to the big ones. So while this pick isn’t necessarily bold, it is a starter for the whole ‘prediction season’.
When looking at this Pats roster, and comparing it to the rest of the AFC East, I honestly feel a little sorry for the Jets, Dolphins, and Bills. Sure, they all have some decent talent, and in a few years, who knows how this division will look. But for the 2014 season, Tom Brady and company will once again rule as kings.
Offensively, the Patriots may not have the firepower of 2007, or 2012, but they have enough to produce as a top 10 unit, and consistently outscore their opponent. The number one trump card in the NFL is your quarterback, and the Patriots are lucky enough to have the best one in the league. Brady may be getting up there in age, but his play hasn’t declined one bit.
His offensive line looks good, although there may be a few tweaks in the middle. Ryan Wendell and Dan Connolly will definitely be pushed by the younger guys, and if nothing else, that competition will force them to elevate their game. No matter who ends up with the starting jobs, the Patriots have excellent depth at this spot, which will allow Brady to control his offense without much disruption.
The real question with this offense, is who will be catching Tom Brady’s passes. Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola are firmly entrenched as the top two wideouts, but there is debate as to who will be behind them. Will it be Aaron Dobson, the talented second year player? Or perhaps newcomer Brandon LaFell, who brings a much bigger frame to the table. One of these two bigger guys must bring a vertical threat to this offense, otherwise come January, they will be sitting at home once again.
And then you have monster tight end Rob Gronkowski, who should be able to play for the majority of the 2014 season. As I stated earlier, I don’t think this group will set any records, but they will do enough to get the job done. The Jets, Dolphins, and Bills simply don’t have enough weapons to outscore Brady, even with the changes they made (Chris Johnson, Sammy Watkins).
I believe the real strength of this Patriots team will be the defense. I get giddy just thinking about what this group will do to the rest of the league next year. The secondary will be one of, if not the best unit football, as they added Darrelle Revis, and Brandon Browner to the roster. Those two alone would make a fine defensive backfield, but when you add guys like Alfonzo Dennard, Logan Ryan, Devin McCourty, and Kyle Arrington (that’s right), you may have one of the best in the last decade. Ryan Tannehill, Geno Smith, and E.J. Manuel will be scared to death of these guys, and with good reason.
The front seven isn’t nearly as talented as the back end is for the Pats, but I think they will be able to hold up their end of the bargain. Vince Wilfork will anchor the defensive line, rookie Dominique Easley will bring that much needed “pop” to the group, and Jamie Collins will lead one of the best starting trios of linebackers in the league. This goes without mentioning the two defensive ends, Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich, who will definitely put their best foot forward in 2014.
When you look at all of this in comparison to the rest of the AFC, I just don’t see enough teams that will be ahead of this group. In fact, I only see one team that could possibly be ahead of them, but that argument is for a different day.
The rest of the AFC East is improving, but they are no where near the quality of this Patriots team. Bill Belichick’s squad will have no problem making the playoffs this year, as edging out the Broncos for the top seed will end up as their biggest priority.