9-4, 1st AFC East
Can The AFC East Even Come Close To Competing With New England? - This has been the Patriots division for the last decade, and it doesn’t seem that things will take a turn this year. Buffalo is in a complete disarray, while New York and Miami are a little better, but that isn’t saying much. The Pats get six games against these guys, which is going to give them five wins, and likely six if we are being honest. The Patriots will be able to capitalize on the AFC South, unlike the other teams. They do have some tough meetings against Minnesota and Pittsburgh, but that is about it. The easy answer to this question is no.
Another Year Of A Bend Don’t Break Defense? - The Patriots have been one of the best red zone defenses in football the last season, and it helps given they are allowing a ton of yards. They were in the bottom half in yards allowed, but top half in points allowed. We expect that to be the same this year, although they have lost a few bodies on the defensive side. Facing a weak division is going to help the numbers overall, and they did add some depth to the defensive line which will help in pressure. The biggest need is going to be getting some takeaways, which has lacked in New England over the last few seasons.
New England’s Line Is In Trouble? - The Patriots are one of the best teams at masking their holes. We have seen it with the defense over the last few seasons, and as well as the offense. With Tom Brady protection is always going to be key, but New England is very good at getting the ball out quick before the pass rush can even get going. Their receivers and running backs are built for this method, and if there is any issue with the line, this is the path they will choose. While the line isn’t a concern because of this, we can’t ignore that it is certainly in the bottom half of the league.
Is New England Lacking In The Receiving Game? - Julian Edelman is suspended the first four games of the season, and the Patriots shipped out Brandin Cooks to the Los Angeles Rams. This leaves behind Chris Hogan the first few weeks being their WR1, and then he will move way to WR2 when he returns. Overall guys like Cordarrelle Patterson and Phillip Dorsett are going to get cracks within this offense, and neither have panned out anywhere else. Playing with Tom Brady is going likely provide a career bump to whoever comes out ahead on the depth charts. This is likely the worst supporting cast Brady has seen in some time.
Does The Season Hang On Gronk’s Health? - As mentioned before, the supporting cast for Tom Brady is rather weak, and the receivers just do not cut it in comparison to season’s before. You would have to imagine a lot of pressure is going to be on Rob Gronkowski to stay healthy. He has been battling health issues in his career, and any time missed is going to take away a huge target in this passing game. The backups of Dwayne Allen and Stephen Anderson do not even come close to Gronk. While New England will survive against poorer teams, losing Gronk against the better ones or in the playoffs would be costly.