Is this the Year Time Finally Catches up to Tom Brady?
It feels like we’ve been having this conversation forever, but it still should be revisited. At 42 years of age, Brady is entering uncharted territory for his age. There have been very few players playing past 40, let alone a player of Brady’s caliber. Still, he did look shaky at times in the regular season and didn’t play that well in the playoffs. In fact, it felt as if the Patriots won the super bowl in spite of him, not because of him. Father time can be merciless, and the drop isn’t always gradual, sometimes it comes suddenly. As historically great as Brady’s been, it will catch up with him eventually. The Patriots traded have traded away many of their supposed “heirs” to Brady’s throne so they lack an adequate replacement as is. As well run as the Patriots are, replacing Brady is something they may not be ready for.
How will the Patriots Adapt to Life Without Gronk?
It’s shocking to think that Tom Brady managed to outlast Rob Gronkowski, but here we are. Gronk was talking about retirement multiple times throughout last season, so it wasn’t all that surprising to see him do it. And good for him, he gets to go out as a champion and one of the most dominant players of all time. Still, it should be interesting to see how the Patriots handle his departure. They have had to deal with extended absences from Gronk before, as he had to deal with numerous injuries in his career, but a full season without him is different. The Patriots were already thin on receiving depth after Amendola’s departure and Gordon’s suspension, so Gronk leaving could be even more damaging then expected. There’s always been talk about how the Patriots system can work with anybody, and that no one is replaceable on the team. That belief should be tested to the extreme without Gronk this year.
The AFC is Stronger, How Much Will This Affect the Patriot’s Chances?
After years of being viewed as the weaker conference opposed to the NFC, the AFC appears to be changing that. Where it was once Manning and Brady for years, there are now a host of new contenders. Both the Chiefs and the Chargers look to be back after strong performances from both last season. The Colts and the Browns appear to be dangerous teams on the rise to look out for. There are also teams like the Ravens, Steelers, and Texans that could conceivably make deep runs if things break right for them. But how much does this hurt the Patriots chances, really? While it will definitely be harder for them, they should still easily be declared the favorite in the conference. At this point, they’ve more than earned the benefit of the doubt, and although there are multiple promising teams, we’ll need to see them slay the giant before we believe it.