NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
2013 Record: 12-4-0
Key Additions: CB Darrelle Revis; CB Brandon Browner; WR Brandon LaFell; S Patrick Chung; DL Will Smith.
Key Losses: RB LeGarrete Blount; CB Aqib Talib; LB Brandon Spikes; DL Cory Grissom; LB Dane Fletcher.
HEAD COACH: Bill Belichick
Offense: Quarterback Tom Brady had another steady season in 2013, passing for 4,343 yards with 25 touchdowns and eleven interceptions. The 36-year old is entering his 15th season in the NFL and seems to get better with age. Backing him up will be Ryan Mallett and/or rookie Jimmy Garoppolo (Eastern Illinois).
The running game lost LeGarrette Blount to free agency (signed with Pittsburgh) but still has Stevan Ridley (773 yards for a 4.3 ypc average and seven TD) and Shane Vereen, who gained 208 yards in limited playing time last year.
Tight end Rob Gronkowski is expected back in time for the season opener, but is taking it easy in training camp following major knee surgery to repair torn ACL and MCL after making 39 receptions for 592 yards and four touchdowns last season.
The wide receivers include Julian Edelman (105 catches for 1,056 yards and six TD), Aaron Dobson (37, 519, four TD), Danny Amendola (54, 633, two TD) and Brandon LaFell, who had 49 receptions for 627 yards and five scores with the Carolina Panthers last year.
The O-Line is solid, even though they allowed 40 QB sacks a year ago. They are efficient and open the lanes for the Pats' running game. Center Ryan Wendell anchors the unit. The guards are Dan Connolly and Logan Mankins and the tackles are Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer.
STATS - Brady and company managed to finish seventh overall in total offense last season, gaining 384 yards per game while scoring just under 28 points per game, which was third in the NFL. The Patriots were in the top ten in both rushing (129 yards per game) and passing (255 yards) last season.
Defense: The 4-3 set the Patriots use will have Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly at the tackles with Chandler Jones (11.5 QB sacks) and Rob Ninkovich (eight sacks) playing the end positions.
Wilfork and Kelly both were injured last year and Wilfork missed a good portion of the 2013 season. Adding depth up front is Chris Jones (six sacks), Jake Bequette, rookie Dominique Easley (Florida), Will Smith and Joe Vellano.
The linebackers are Jerod Mayo (MLB) and outside men Dont'a Hightower and Jamie Collins. Josh Hull, Ja'Gared Davis and Chris White provide backup.
The secondary, which got lit up quite a bit last year, has two solid veterans in camp this year as Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner join the team. Browner is suspended for the first four games this year, but is a major player who won a Super Bowl ring with Seattle last season. And Darrelle Revis needs no introduction. The safeties are Duron Harmon and Devin McCourty.
Former Patriot Patrick Chung is back in the secondary this season after a short stay in Philadelphia and Logan Ryan (five interceptions as a rookie in 2013) is also available to provide depth.
STATS - The Pats accumulated 48 quarterback sacks (5th in NFL) but finished 26th in overall defense as they allowed 373 yards per game, which included 134 on the ground (30th overall) while finishing 18th against the pass, yielding 239 yards per game. Like the good sack total, New England was 10th in scoring defense, giving up 21 points a game. In addition, the Patriots intercepted 17 passes and had twelve fumble recoveries.
OUTLOOK: As long as future Hall-of-Famer Tom Brady is on the field, the Patriots are legitimate Super Bowl contenders. Along with Head Coach Bill Belichick, Brady and the Patriots have won at least ten games for eleven consecutive seasons and should do so again in the 2014 season.
Having a healthy Rob Gronkowski does wonders for the "red zone" offense and he is also Brady's favorite target. The offense should hum along once again this season.
Defensively, the Patriots must improve and stop the run more consistently after allowing opponents to run almost at will against them after run stuffers Wilfork and Kelly went down with season ending injuries last year. With Revis and Browner on board this year, the secondary should be much better as well.
After reaching the AFC Championship Game for the third straight year, the Patriots would like to get back to the Super Bowl after falling short the past two seasons. Brady knows the window will someday be closing on this team, but another AFC East title should be in the offing again this year following an 11-5 finish as the Patriots look to move on to the big game once again. Beating Denver out for the AFC crown is another subject, but it's not entirely out of the question.
Week 1- at Miami
Week 2- at Minnesota
Week 3- vs. Oakland
Week 4- at Kansas City
Week 5- vs. Cincinnati
Week 6- at Buffalo
Week 7- vs. NY Jets
Week 8- vs. Chicago
Week 9- vs. Denver
Week 10- BYE WEEK
Week 11- at Indianapolis
Week 12- vs. Detroit
Week 13- at Green Bay
Week 14- at San Diego
Week 15- vs. Miami
Week 16- at NY Jets
Week 17- vs. Buffalo