NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
HEAD COACH: Bill Belichick
Key Additions: DB Will Allen; DE Jonathan Fanene; WR Jabar Gaffney; WR Brandon Lloyd; WR Donte' Stallworth; DB Steve Gregory; DE Trevor Scott
Key Losses: RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis; DE Mark Anderson; OL Rob Gallery
Offense: What can you say about quarterback Tom Brady after a huge season in 2011 in which the veteran passed for a new career high of 5,235 yards with 39 touchdown passes and just 12 interceptions.
Brady leads an offense that ranked second in the NFL last season, averaging 428 yards a game with 318 yards per game passing, which was also second in the league. The Patriots averaged 32 points per game as well.
Brady's targets in the passing game include the two headed monster of tight ends Rob Gronkowski (90 receptions for 1,327 yards and 17 TD) and Aaron Hernandez, who made 79 catches for 910 yards and seven touchdowns.
Wide receivers Wes Welker (122, 1,569, nine TD) and Deion Branch (51, 702, 5), along with free agents Brandon Lloyd (51, 683, 5 with Rams) and Jabar Gaffney, who made 68 grabs for 947 yards and five touchdowns with the Redskins, will be the many weapons for Brady.
The running game will feature a different lead back this year after BenJarvus Green-Ellis left for Cincinnati. Steven Ridley (87 carries for 441 yards, 5.1 ypc average and a touchdown) will be the main back in 2012 and Danny Woodhead will also gets his share of carries as well. Woodhead is a versatile runner who gained 351 yards on 77 attempts (4.6 ypc average) and also caught 18 passes for 157 yards.
The offensive line has veteran Dan Koppen at center once again, along with Brian Waters and Logan Mankins at the guard spots. Sebastian Vollmer and Nate Solder are the tackles.
Defense: Vince Wilfork is the big man up front at tackle in the 4-3 alignment with Kyle Love at the other tackle spot. Top rookie draft pick Chandler Jones (Syracuse) and Jonathan Fanene will man the end positions. Wilfork had 3 1/2 quarterback sacks and made two interceptions last season and is a presence up front against the run as well.
Fanene had 6 1/2 quarterback sacks with Cincinnati last season. Gerard Warren, Myron Pryor, Brandon Deaderick and Trevor Scott provide depth.
Brandon Spikes will be the middle linebacker and the outside backers are Rob Ninkovich (6 1/2 sacks) and Jerod Mayo. Rookie Dont'a Hightower (Alabama) will get time as well along with Dane Fletcher and Tracy White.
The secondary features Devin McCourty and Kyle Arrington at the corners with Patrick Chung and Steve Gregory at the safety spots.
Arrington tied for the league lead with seven interceptions in 2011 as the Patriots 'D' picked off 23 passes and was a plus-17 in the takeaway category.
On the flip side, improvement in 2012 is needed as the defense was torched on a regular basis in the 2011 season, especially against the pass. New England was 31st in the NFL in total defense (giving up 411 yards per game) and also 31st against the pass, allowing 294 yards per game. The run defense was 17th overall, allowing 117 yards per game.
OUTLOOK: It's tough to pick against Brady and Head Coach Bill Belichick because they have been doing the same thing for over a decade now and show no signs of slowing down after getting to another Super Bowl last year.
Brady and Belichick are two of the best in the business when it comes to winning football games.
With the weapons Brady has surrounding him on offense and the system he runs to near perfection, the Patriots are like a well oiled machine.
The defense needs work, but is really like a bend, but not break style that gives up A LOT of yardage, but only allowed 21 points per game on average a year ago.
Barring injury to any key players (especially Brady), this team shouldn't have much trouble winning another division title by going 12-4 in 2012 and making another deep playoff run that may very well lead to another Super Bowl appearance or even another Super Bowl title.
Week 1- at Tennessee
Week 2- vs. Arizona
Week 3- at Baltimore
Week 4- at Buffalo
Week 5- vs. Denver
Week 6- at Seattle
Week 7- vs. NY Jets
Week 8- at St. Louis
Week 9- BYE
Week 10- vs. Buffalo
Week 11- vs. Indianapolis
Week 12- at NY Jets
Week 13- at Miami
Week 14- vs. Houston
Week 15- vs. San Francisco
Week 16- at Jacksonville
Week 17- vs. Miami