I’ve lived in New England all my life. Therefore, I know how this article may be tough to read for a lot of you New Englanders out there. Let me start by saying a classic phrase: don’t shoot the messenger.
In New England, we are aggressively and relentlessly cocky about our football team. Nearing 20 years of absolute dominance will do that to you, I guess. It’s warranted to be this cocky, but it doesn’t mean we can’t be realistic. This year will be a challenge.
As the regular season is about to begin, should Patriots fans worry a little extra this year? I’ll let you decide.
Let’s look at the obvious. Our fearless leader of the New England countryside, a sexy 39-year-old going by the name Tom Brady, is out for the first 4 games of the year. In his place is equally sexy but not-quite-so-talented Jimmy Garapollo playing the quarterback position. Jimmy hasn’t started an NFL game before. It’s not out of the question that we will have some growing pains on offense.
With that being said, let’s not act like the first four games would be necessarily easy EVEN IF Tom Brady was playing. We play the Cardinals and Texans (two playoff teams), and then divisional foes the Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills. Let’s not lie to each other; our division gave us arguably the biggest challenge they ever have during our dynasty last year. All 3 teams actually played us competitively and gave us trouble for what seems like the first time this millennium. It’s not out of the question that they got better with a year for young talent to progress.
While we’re at it, take a look at this year’s schedule. There’s 3 games I have no doubt we will win; games against the Rams, 49ers, and Browns. That’s only 3 games! For you non-math majors, we’re talking about 13 games that will actually have some sort of challenge to it!
An obstacle that usually decides the fate for many playoff caliber teams each year is the injury bug. As the season goes on and players continue to put their body on the line play after play, injuries begin to pile up. Usually, the team that wins the Super Bowl is one with depth. Do yourself a favor and check out the Patriots depth chart. Aside from the receiver core and our safety unit, there’s cause for concern. It doesn’t help when we already are starting the season with proven talent and major impact players out with injury. Guys like Danny Amendola, Dion Lewis, Sebastion Vollmer, and Rob Ninkovich being sidelined at the start of the season should be a major red flag.
It also doesn’t help when proven commodities that would help with depth, guys like Brian Stork and Terrance Knighton, are unable to hold roster spots. This one isn’t as bad, because it could mean a lot of our young guys are showing a lot of promise. I do trust Bill Belichick with these moves, but it’s stupid to say this isn’t concerning. It should be concerning.
And finally, time to state the obvious. I’m putting my life on the line with this statement, but hear me out. Tom Brady is 39; do we really think he will perform at an elite level forever? Let’s not lie; Tom doesn’t have the deep ball accuracy that he once had, when will the rest of it go? History would say sooner rather than later. People look at Peyton Manning as a joke the past few years, but let’s not forget he had the year of his career in 2013. Shelf life is short for quarterbacks and they can go at any moment.
Before I get hung for my statements, let me save myself. Tom Brady is obviously different. The guy plans his meals years in advance; he’s an absolute freak at maintaining a healthy body and a perfectionist on the field. He’s only had 1 major injury, and having that year off in 2008 could help him continue to age well. Well we’re comparing Peyton and Brady’s old age; Bill Belichick isn’t Gary Kubiak or John Fox (Peyton’s coaches in Denver). What I mean is, Belichick is actually smart. If you haven’t noticed, he’s literally different than every other coach in the league. Most coaches have their ideal game plan, and find people that fit that accordingly. Bill looks at his roster and makes adjustments accordingly. Last year, Gary Kubiak tried to make the 40-year-old Manning run a heavy play action offense, reliant on athleticism and fast footwork from the QB (traits that aren’t usually active in any 40 year olds). This is why Brock Osweiler looked like the better QB, because he still has that athleticism.
The Patriots do it differently, we build around the guys we have and add players accordingly. Bill Belichick has already made the game plan clear, by collecting possession receivers and big-play guys like Bennett, Dion Lewis, and Gronkowski. This way we always have the big play threat, but can also always have the option for the quick pass and first down. As long as Brady can throw the ball 10 yards and under he’s going to be on the Patriots roster. Still, he’s almost 40. As my sports radio pal on WSKB Anthony Swenson likes to say, father time catches up to everyone.