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


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

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!