New England Patriots Preview
The Patriots will look to avoid the Super Bowl hangover. I expect a different mentality for the Patriots starting from the top down. With Spygate in their rearview mirror, the Patriots can focus on football. They will no longer feel the need to hang forty points on their opponents. They don’t have to justify their dominance in a manner that in the end could have led to their demise. When you pass as often as they did, it puts a lot of pressure on their offensive line. They never really established their rushing attack, and it ultimately failed them when they needed it the most. Look for them to be more committed to the run to wear defenses down to win the time of possession battle and keep their defense off the field.
In the Passing game, I don’t see as many deep routes. They will utilize more quick slant routes and timing patterns. They will also use more screen plays as LaMont Jordan has joined Kevin Faulk to give the Pats a pair of capable receivers out of the backfield. If you look back to the Super Bowl, this is what worked. Wes Welker could not be accounted for. To this day I contend that if short passes to Welker caught 20 passes that day, in essence making him the focus your ball-control rather than the RBs who couldn’t shake loose, the outcome may have been different. They truly had no answer for Welker. Obviously you can’t subject Welker to that sort of pounding all season long so Gaffney, the backs, and Benjamin Watson will have to get more in the mix. When defense try and shut down the underneath routes is when Randy Moss and Tom Brady will exploit them over the top.
Defensively the lost some leaders, but the Patriots’ M.O. is to replace those pieces and move on without much of a hitch. I feel they will be up for the challenge. I see Jered Mayo being a big playmaker for the Pats. If the Offense can control the clock keeping this unit fresh, I feel they can be one of the best defensive units in the league.
The Patriots won’t complete another perfect regular season. They’ll drop a couple of games along the way (including one to the Jets). They will win their divison as well as a first round bye. They will return to the Super Bowl, only this time they’ll leave a happier crew.
Fantasy-wise I don’t see the Patriots being as dominant. Tom Brady and Randy Moss won’t come near their 2007 production. Sorry, those numbers were historic, and won’t be approached any time soon. This doesn’t mean they won’t be top end players at their respective positons, it just means they won’t be breaking any records htis year. I even see Welker taking a small step back in terms of production. I see increased production for Laurence Maroney and Chad Jackson, assuming they can stay healthy. The tough thing about being a Patriots owner is you may not get much from them in the Fantasy Playoffs. Keep that in mind when assembling your team.