2014 NFL Preview: New England Patriots

2014 NFL Preview: New England Patriots

Since 2001, no team in the the NFL has been as consistently good as the New England Patriots. During that span, the Pats have won at least 10 games in 12 of 13 seasons. They have qualified for the playoffs 11 times, capturing 11 division titles. They have competed in five Super Bowls and won three of them. Love him or loathe him, Bill Belichick has constructed a dominant force in an era where most franchises struggle to make the playoffs in back-to-back years. Of course the majority of this success is directly linked to quarterback Tom Brady, who at age 36 remains one of the game’s best pure passers. The forecast for the 2014 season isn’t any different. New England is a heavy favorite to win the AFC East and will once again be a leading Super Bowl contender. Here’s a preview.

Outlook: As long as the Belichick/Brady pairing is intact, the Patriots will be the AFC East’s best team. No offense to the rest of the division, but none of them represents a legitimate threat, barring a long-term injury to Brady. That said, there are still concerns on offense. When will Rob Gronkowski return and can he stay healthy? Can Danny Amendola stay healthy and live up to the massive contract he inked prior to the 2013 season? Will Steven Ridley regain his 2012 form? The defense added impact players and should be better as long as Vince Wilfork is fully recovered from a torn Achilles.

New arrivals: Darrelle Revis is now two years removed from ACL surgery and is motivated to reclaim his title as the league’s “best cover corner.” He turns 29 next month and is playing for his third team in three seasons, but Revis in a Belichick defense sounds like a match made in football heaven. Brandon Browner brings Pro Bowl skills, providing he can stay out of the league office’s doghouse. Brandon LaFell is a third receiving option at best, but he’s a big body with deceptive deep speed.

Wave goodbye: The acquisition of Revis offset the loss of Aqib Talib to Denver. Talib was solid in his season and a half in New England, but health and off the field issues have plagued his career. Brandon Spikes never really became the elite talent the Pats thought he would and is now a Buffalo Bill. LeGarrette Blount was a devastating runner down the stretch in 2013 and scored a career-high 7 touchdowns. But Belichick has never placed much value on backs, so Blount joined the Steelers.

Over/Under wins – 10.5: A schedule that includes Denver, Green Bay, Cincinnati, and Indy means they will be tested outside of the AFC East. One of these years, the Pats will stumble, but it’s unlikely 2014 will be the year. With Brady under center and a maturing receiving corps, the offense will again be potent. And the presence of Revis in the secondary will pay dividends early.

Bet the Over