NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
2014 Record: 12-4-0 (1st in AFC East)
HEAD COACH: Bill Belichick
New Players in 2015 - TE Scott Chandler; LB Brandon Spikes; CB Robert McClain; CB Bradley Fletcher; CB Chimdi Chekwa.
OFFENSIVE RANK in 2014 - 11th in NFL (365.5 ypg)
DEFENSIVE RANK in 2014 - 13th in NFL (344.1 ypg)
Offense: Tom Brady, the Super Bowl MVP, is back for another season after putting up 33 touchdown passes with just nine interceptions and 4,109 yards. Jimmy Garoppolo is the back up.
The BIG QUESTION entering the 2015 season is whether or not Brady will be on the field for the Patriots when the regular season begins. A four-game suspension was handed down by the league to Brady for the "deflate gate" scandal during the post-season when the Patriots were on their way to a Super Bowl title.
The rest of the offense will see LeGarrette Blount as the featured running back with Jonas Gray backing him up. Blount (281 rush yards, 4.7 ypc average and three TD) enjoyed a resurgence of sorts when he re-joined the Pats following a disastrous and very brief stay with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Gray totaled 412 yards on the ground (4.6 ypc average) and scored five touchdowns.
The receiving corps has Brandon LaFell (74 receptions for 953 yards and seven touchdowns), Julian Edelman (92, 972, four TD) and Danny Amendola, who made 27 receptions for 200 yards and a score while being used sparingly due to nagging injuries all season long.
The tight end is Rob Gronkowski, the best in the NFL, who snared 12 TD catches while totaling 82 receptions for 1,124 yards.
Tim Wright (26, 259 and six TD) is another solid tight end, who along with free agent TE Scott Chandler (47, 497, three TD with Buffalo) will provide even more weapons for Brady.
The offensive line will see Brian Stork at center along with tackles Sebastian Vollmer and Nate Solder and guards Jordan Devey and Ryan Wendell.
Defense: Changes up front as long time nose tackle Vincent Wilfork is gone and instead the Patriots will feature tackles Alan Branch and rookie Malcolm Brown (Texas) along with ends Chandler Jones (six QB sacks last year) and Rob Ninkovich (eight sacks) in the 4-3 set.
The linebacking unit will have Jerod Mayo in the middle and Dont'a Hightower (six sacks) and Jamie Collins, who had two interceptions last season, on the outside. Brandon Spikes comes on board this season to provide depth along with Jonathan Freeny and Cameron Gordon.
The secondary also has undergone vast changes as Brandon Browner and Darrelle Revis are gone from last season via free agency and in their places are Logan Ryan (two interceptions) and Malcolm Butler at the corners. The safeties are Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty (two INT).
Rookie Jordan Richards (Stanford), Bradley Fletcher, Tavon Wilson, Robert McClain and Justin Green will provide depth.
OUTLOOK FOR 2015 - It has been said all off-season that the controversy surrounding Brady and Head Coach Bill Belichick and all of the pending suspension of Brady for the "deflate gate" will motivate the team in much the same manner as "spy gate" did in 2007 when the Patriots went 16-0 in the regular season.
That remains to be seen because without Brady at QB for four games, the impact could be huge in the AFC East standings with up-and-coming Buffalo and Miami looking to challenge the Patriots.
True, the Patriots are the defending Super Bowl champions (thanks to a very peculiar play call selection by the Seattle Seahawks in the closing minute of last season's Super Bowl) and they will be wearing the very large target on their collective backs coming into the 2015 season.
There are no surprises to what Brady and company do on offense, it's just a matter of opposing defenses being able to stop them or at least trying to slow them down. New England was third in the NFL in scoring last year, averaging just over 29 points per game.
The defense will be the key for the team this year with the number of player personnel turnover from last year.
The secondary is vital as Butler (the Super Bowl hero with the late game pick to seal the win) and Ryan will have big shoes to fill at cornerback. If the pass defense is decent, the Patriots should be solid on defense.
Expect New England to once again win the AFC East, going 11-5 and having yet another deep playoff run. Whether or not they can win another Super Bowl is another topic, what with all the drama surrounding them coming into a new season.
But don't count them out.
After all, this is Brady and Belichick we are talking about.
Week 1 - vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Week 2 - at Buffalo Bills
Week 3 - vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Week 4 - BYE WEEK
Week 5 - at Dallas Cowboys
Week 6 - at Indianapolis Colts
Week 7 - vs. New York Jets
Week 8 - vs. Miami Dolphins
Week 9 - vs. Washington Redskins
Week 10 - at New York Giants
Week 11 - vs. Buffalo Bills
Week 12 - at Denver Broncos
Week 13 - vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Week 14 - at Houston Texans
Week 15 - vs. Tennessee Titans
Week 16 - at New York Jets
Week 17 - at Miami Dolphins