Patriots Expectations Need To Pump The Breaks
Look, the New England Patriots are the reigning Super Bowl champions. And this upcoming season they are once again the rightful favorites to win it all once more.
Did they get better this off season? On paper, yes. In reality, it is unclear. Of course, we have all season the training camp propaganda of Brandin Cooks reeling in crazy catches. But with the New England Patriots, you need to click with Tom Brady. And that only comes in a live NFL regular season game.
While I think this team will be good, it is important to keep expectations low. The NFL around them looks weak, but there are several teams like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that look poised to come at the Brady-Belichick throne.
Every year there seems to be an NFL team that takes a great leap forward, last season it was the Atlanta Falcons, and the year prior it was the Carolina Panthers. New England should win the AFC East no problem. But at this point looking at that or even further is foolish.
But what I will sell you on is Brady having a lesser year than he did in the previous.
I am not going to sell you on Brady’s velocity falling and the fact that outside of the Super Bowl comeback he was mediocre in the playoffs. But what I will sell you on is Brady having a lesser year than he did in the previous. With him, I don’t think he will hit a cliff, but a slow decline? Yes, that is in the Tom Brady cards.
The future hall of famer had a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 28-2 last season. Will he repeat this type of percentage? Highly unlikely.
New England’s offensive line will be fine under the watchful eye of Dante Scarnaicia, but even with an addition to the receiving core and the running back group. One can still question what you will see this season from Brady. He is now 40-years-old, an age that is relatively uncharted amongst quarterbacks. The sample size for NFL QB’s is small, you have the likes of Brett Favre and Warren Moon in that category, outside of them, there isn’t much else to look at.
Brady Won’t Be This Team’s Problem, The Defense And High Expectations Will Be
Farve had a successful post-40 season, but his o-line in Minnesota fell apart in front of him. This isn’t something that I envision in New England with Brady. For that reason, I do not believe Brady would be part of any struggles this years team will face. He will find a way to work with the weapons he has, he is still a number 1 or 2 QB in the entire league.
One thing that has already plagued this team has been a lack of training camp intensity according to reports. This issue has gotten under Brady’s skin down at Patriots camp.
“I’m always pretty frustrated throughout the day in practices,” he said. “You’re just trying to create some urgency. I ask guys to dig a little deeper. It goes like that. Sometimes things don’t go great in the first quarter of games, sometimes they don’t go great in the first half, sometimes they don’t go great for the first three quarters, but you’ve got to keep grinding. You’ve got to keep digging deeper. A lot of times football is a lot about momentum. Things don’t go well early and then you find a little rhythm, start making some plays, scoring some points and then you can rattle off 28 points. That’s football.
“I think what you realize with this team is they’re not going to make it easy on you. There is no easy play, there is no easy throw, there is no easy run. They’ve got good players, they’ve got a good scheme, so it’s really challenging and has forced us to raise our game.”
The later part of the quote from Training Camp is Brady talking about the Houston Texans, a team they are sparring with in camp. I’m not sure why the Patriots are requiring a kick from Tom, but one can wonder if the 19-0 and repeat talk has gotten around the locker room at One Patriots Place. While I do not think this will be an issue in a Bill Belichick locker room, I do believe it will take a little bit of effort on him and the coaching staff to manage.
Defense Can Be An Issue
This year’s defense is without Rob Ninkovich and others who have either changed teams or walked away from the game. You could see it in week 1 of the preseason, the bend not break defense was not anywhere close to championship winning levels.
Not a big deal from a week 1 preseason game, but it shows how far this team will have to come on the defensive side of the ball. In years past this kind of stuff has lingered into the regular season. For that reason, I believe the best football out of the team will come in the back half of the year. For that reason, I believe they could lose a few games in the front half of the schedule.
Don’t get me wrong, this year’s team will be good. I have questions on defense, and I also question if Josh McDaniels will try and throw too much with Brady. I believe they should start the year with the ground and pound like last season. Set the running game early so teams have to respect it when you are throwing down the field later in the season.
If you haven’t heard or seen my season win-loss prediction for the New England Patriots, it is 12-4. They could certainly overachieve, but factoring in the defensive issues, strength of schedule, and Super Bowl hangover, I can envision a less than stellar regular season.