The New England Patriots are coming off of another SuperBowl victory – their first since 2004. But this was a different championship to win. The team beat the Seattle Seahawks in SuperBowl 49 on one of the most talked about plays in the history of the NFL.
Even before that though, the Patriots were mired in controversy with what ended up becoming known as “deflategate,” the situation where it was alleged that Patriots QB & franchise player Tom Brady knew that footballs were being deflated by team staff in order to allow Brady to have a better grip on the football & be more accurate with passes.
As we write this, Brady is preparing to find out what is fate is in terms of a suspension or fine or both. The team opens the season on September 10 against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the annual NFL Kickoff game to salute the SuperBowl champions from the past season. While we all wait to find out what “Tom Terrific” is going to do or not do, we have to look at the season as a whole for the team.
New England Patriots 2015 Offense
The Patriots are always going to be a contender with Brady at the helm, but if he has to miss any games early, backup Jimmy Garoppolo will take over as the starter. Garoppalo has 2 complete seasons in the Patriots offense & from all accounts, he seems to be comfortable in the pocket & confident with the offensive unit as a whole.
As always, his job will be much easier when he has the best tight end in the NFL, Rob Gronkowski, as one of the most amazing safety blankets in the league. Gronk played a whole season healthy last year, & was able to continue to show why he has revolutionized the TE position. He can split out at the WR position, he is a complete mismatch for all defenders……..to fast for linebackers & corners & safeties can’t cover him one on one down the field.
Gronk should see more one-on-one matchups this year, however. The receiving core for the Patriots returns in tact & with another year of maturing & learning how to become even better playmakers, the Patriots are going to have a strong vertical passing game. Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola & Aaron Dobson give the Patriots a great deep game & with Edelman & Amendola, they can catch the slot pass & take it to the house on almost any play or place on the field. A sleeper in the wide receiver core is Devin Gardner. Gardner was brought in to be a wide receiver, which he played a bit of during his time at Michigan. Gardner is 6’4″, with experience at the position, & has the speed to take the top of the defense & jump for the 50/50 balls.
With the offensive line returning back mostly in tact, the protection in the pocket should be great for Jimmy or Tommy when they are at the quarterback position. The running game will be done by committee, with LeGarrette Blount getting a slight bit more of the share of carries. If Brady is healthy through the entire season from the beginning & not suspended, the Patriots will go 12-4 & host a playoff game in Foxboro, just on the offense alone.
The team came to terms with the best kicker in the NFL in Stephen Gostowski so the special teams should be a positive in 2015.
New England Patriots 2015 Defense
This is the area that could be a question mark for the Patriots. They lost two great cornerstones of their SuperBowl-level defense this offseason – Darrelle Revis (signed with New York Jets) & Vince Wilfork (signed with Houston Texans). Revis was a true lockdown cornerback & took away half of the field each week & was normally paired up on the #1 receiver on each team. Revis showed that he still has energy & can still cover with the best in the league.
The Patriots will be able to still hang with some of the better defenses in the league, though. The team drafted heavily on defense this year, bringing in DT Malcolm Brown from Texas & in the safety area, using a draft pick on strong safety Jordan Richards from Stanford.
The defense will be anchored by three players, however, that can make an impact this year immediately – DE Chandler Jones, LB Donta Hightower & CB Devin McCourty. All three of these guys are veterans now & will be looked upon to be the leaders on the defensive unit & make sure the offense has the opportunities to put up tons of points, as last year, which it looks as though they will be up to the challenge. The first game against the Pittsburgh Steelers & their pass-happy (so weird saying that about the Steelers) offense added with the scrambling ability of Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger.
New England Patriots Record Prediction
The Patriots should go 12-4 this year. The AFC East is still not where it needs to be to truly knock them off of their throne. They will get tested for the first time in many years, but if Tom Brady is there, or even when he comes back from whatever suspension he may get, he is coming for revenge against any & every team in the NFL, particularly in division. The Patriots will still make a deep run in the playoffs & should be the true favorite to come out of the AFC yet again for SuperBowl 50.