For the second time in five seasons, the New England Patriots had a near-perfect season, but fell to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl. They are coming back this season hungry and fully loaded. Head coach Bill Belichick will use their loss as ammunition.
New England managed to keep most of their talent and they added a few Pro Bowlers to the team. They tried to fix their secondary, but didn’t sign anyone significant to make a major difference. The biggest free agent signings were receivers. Their high-octane passing offense could break records this season.
It has been eight seasons since New England has won a Super Bowl, can they get over the hump and add to Tom Brady’s legacy?
Key Additions: WR Brandon Lloyd, WR Donté Stallworth, WR Jabar Gaffney, TE Visanthe Shiancoe, TE Jake Ballard, TE Bo Scaife, CB Will Allen, LB Chandler Jones, LB Dont’a Hightower, S Tavon Wilson, DE Jake Bequette, LB Bobby Carpenter, CB Marquice Cole, DE Jonathan Fanene, TE Daniel Fells, S Steve Gregory, S Nate Ebner, CB Alfonzo Dennard, WR Jeremy Ebert and OT Dustin Waldron.
Key Losses: RB Benjarvus Green-Ellis, WR Tiquan Underwood, OT Matt Light, RB Kevin Faulk, LB Gary Guyton, DE Mark Anderson, DE Andre Carter, DT Landon Cohen and CB Antwaun Molden.
Non-Division Schedule: AFC South and NFC West
Fantasy Sleeper: WR Jabar Gaffney – Chad Johnson, Tiquan Underwood and Anthony Gonzalez didn’t make the Patriots team for a reason, Tom Brady has a lot of familiar weapons. Deion Branch and Jabar Gaffney are back to help Tom Brady to become…better?! Gaffney will get a lot of targets, but the wide receiver position is crowded in New England. Brady likes to mix it up and spread the ball around. Gaffney is a risk in even the deepest of leagues, but New England doesn’t have many sleeper options.
Team Analysis: When you take a look at New England’s non-divisional schedule, barring an injury, you know Tom Brady is about to break a few records. He faces the two worst divisions and gets the two best teams (Houston and San Francisco) at home. The “two tight end” formation has transformed Tom Brady’s passing attack. Many of the teams in the NFL are duplicating it, so defenses in the league will be ready. New England has a major advantage, no other team has Rob Gronkowski. At this point, it looks like Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen will be sharing the duties running the ball, with Ridley slated to get the majority of the carries. They will miss Green-Ellis and Faulk early on, but Ridley and Vereen will be sufficient replacements. The team leaders in sacks last season, Andre Carter and Mark Anderson, are not in the team. They will be relying on rookies and new faces to fill that need. The Patriots need a consistent pass rush, because their secondary will be really bad. In 2011, statistically, their secondary was one of the worst in the history of the NFL. Their offense is too good and will overcome their lack of defense. They should be the #1 seed in the AFC and possibly even make another Super Bowl.
By the way, if you’re putting a bet down on the Patriots’ win total, the line is at 12.5. The odds of New England winning over 12.5 games is high, but the risk isn’t worth the juice. There are too many factors that could make them only win 12 games or less (i.e. injuries, tanking the last game). I would stay away from it, but if you’re in a pool and need to guess over/under, pick the over.
2012 Wins Over/Under Line: 12.5 (Prediction: OVER)
2012 Projected Win/Loss Record: 14-2