Early 2017 Season Preview for the WORLD CHAMPION New England Patriots
How did last season end? 14-2 Record, Super Bowl Champs
Key Offseason Acquisitions: WR Brandin Cooks, CB Stephon Gilmore, and DE Kony Ealy
Key Offseason Losses: RB LaGarrette Blount, CB Logan Ryan, and TE Martellus Bennett
Draft Picks to Watch: Basically none (maybe DE Derek River) because we punted on the draft
First off, let me start off by saying, I hate to say I told you so. The only thing I got wrong about last season’s preview is that I actually underestimated how many games we would win, silly me. I underestimated how good Jimmy G actually is, and I overestimated every NFC team not named the Atlanta Falcons. Speaking of the Falcons, respect to them. They get a lot of shit (and rightfully so) for blowing a 28-3 lead late in the 3rd quarter of the Super Bowl, but they’re a big reason why we had the approach we had this offseason. I’m not sure we’re so pressed to add speed like Brandin Cooks if it weren’t for the Falcons manning up and making sure there’s no yards after the catch in the SB. I’m also not sure we sign a tall, rangy, Pro Bowl CB for big money in Stephon Gilmore if Julio doesn’t go off either.
I’d love to sit here and bask in the glory of the Patriots winning their 5th Super Bowl in my lifetime, but as Bill so eloquently says, we’re on to 2017. It’s easy to go into the offseason after a SB win and think “we just won the Super Bowl, there’s not really much we need to do with this roster”. But that couldn’t be further from the truth with Belichick’s line of thinking. We needed to approach this offseason like a team that was down 28-3 in the SB, and not the team that came out on top in the end. Because if we don’t have the best QB of all time on our side, then the game ends in a blowout. That’s why Belichick essentially said “no thanks” to the draft and decided to trade most of his picks for established veterans.
Tom Brady will turn 40 next week, and although he’s beaten the shit out of father time thus far, it could come unexpectedly. So when the media says we’re “loading up” this season, you can’t blame them for thinking that based on our additions. You take an already elite offense and add a burner who runs a 4.3 coming off two very productive seasons, and good luck to the rest of the league. I’m gonna tell you this right now: Brandin Cooks will eat. Robert Kraft has already said we haven’t added a WR this dynamic since Randy Moss and he’s right. But Cooks’ biggest contributions might come in the form of opening things up a bit more for other people. If we have James White leaking out into the flat, Edelman running a short crossing route, Gronk stampeding up the seam, and Cooks running a go route on a double move, how the fuck do you stop that?
Brady, who was snubbed of the MVP award last year, will again put up MVP numbers in an even stronger passing attack from last season. The ground game will look a bit different than recent years though without familiar face Blount back there. Expect Mike Gillislee to take over the role of power back with Rex Burkhead getting some 1st down touches here and there. Burkhead is one of those backs that can be on the field for all 4 downs, and he’s white, so Bill is gonna give him a ton of looks. My one concern on offense is the interior O-Line and our depth at TE. If Gronk gets injured, which has like a 50% chance of happening, is Dwayne Allen a good enough replacement to Bennett?
On the defensive side of the ball, it’s good to see Dont’a Hightower back and making the money he deserves. No one makes more clutch plays in big games than him (aside from Brady and Malcolm Butler) and he’s probably the reason we won both of these Super Bowls in the last 3 years. If he doesn’t have that shoestring tackle on Marshawn Lynch, Butler doesn’t even have the opportunity to intercept that pass at the goal line. And in February’s Super Bowl, the biggest momentum switch was on his strip sack of Matt Ryan late in the 3rd. Boomtower does have injury concerns though, and that’s why we added one of Belichick’s favorites in former Jets LB David Harris. Harris is a solid vet who never comes off the field, one of those guys who you want to see get a ring because of his character and the way he goes about his business.
Lawrence Guy and Kony Ealy were added to the defensive line, and most of our secondary is intact from last year. One notable change is letting Logan Ryan walk and replacing him with former Buffalo Bills CB Stephon Gilmore. Gilmore has always been hit or miss with me when I’ve seen him play, but that may be because he’s facing Tom Brady every time I watch. He made the Pro Bowl last year, so the pairing of him and Malcolm Butler should make for one of the best CB tandems in the league. The Patriots will likely have teams playing from behind in the majority of their games, so it helps to have the quartet of Butler, Gilmore, McCourty, and Chung patrolling the deep part of the field.
Prediction: 14-2 and a trip to the Super Bowl
I’ve seen a few media outlets predicting us to go 16-0 (low-key 19-0) and that makes me nervous. I would rather get a couple of losses out of the way so that if we do reach the Super Bowl again, we won’t feel that same pressure we felt the last time we went undefeated. But looking at our schedule and considering the fact that we just took a Super Bowl winning team and made it better, it’s hard not to pick us to win every game. I feel a bit shaky about the rematch against the Falcons and the game against the Raiders because it’s in Mexico City, so I’ll pick those as random losses. But I won’t be the slightest bit shocked if we make it out of the season 16-0. I think we make it to our 3rd Super Bowl in 4 years, and I’m going to take the same tactic I took last year and say I’m not going to pick a winner. That seemed to work well in my favor last year and I’m superstitious.
But fuck it, football is back! The NBA season (and offseason) was lit, but man am I happy to have the NFL back. And please don’t forget...the Falcons blew a 28-3 lead in the Super Bowl.