Patriots Will Take A Step Back In 2013
The New England Patriots will be worse off in 2013 than they were in 2012.
Last year’s New England Patriots went 12-4 and for the second straight year hosted the AFC Championship game at Gillette Stadium against the Baltimore Ravens. Unlike 2011, the Patriots did not have luck on their side and lost a game they were never in after halftime.
Since that time, star tight-end Rob Gronkowski went under the knife multiple times, Aaron Hernandez got arrested, Wes Welker begged the Denver Broncos for a job, Danny Woodhead bolted for the San Diego Chargers, and Alfonzo Dennard got mixed up with the police in his home of Lincoln, Nebraska.
Some even question the Patriots draft in April that saw them turn their first round pick into four more picks. While they picked up a few pieces that could help them, the team didn’t pick a player in the first round, where a team has the highest probability of landing a high-impact player. The Patriots didn’t pick until the second round, 52nd overall.
There’s no guarantee Rob Gronkowski, now the Patriots most important offensive player besides Tom Brady, will be ready to go week one. Brady is breaking in a whole new set of receivers who consist of rookies and injury-prone players. The depth-chart isn’t even set at this point.
There’s also the big distraction of Aaron Hernandez. While the team already addressed the situation, new developments in the case will crop up as the season goes on, leading to more Hernandez questions. It remains a unique problem that the team will have to tackle, whether they like it or not.
Then there’s the fact that the franchise’s most important player will turn 36 in a few days. Brady’s playing at an elite level for so long that fans have taken his ability for granted. But at some point, his play will fall off, and so too will the Patriots.
It’s not all doom-and-gloom for the Patriots though. Despite ranking 29th against the pass last year, the Patriots defense is young, getting better, and returns 10 of their 11 starters from last year. With the infusion of new talent in the draft such as Jamie Collins and Logan, and solid veterans like Adrian Wilson and Tommy Kelly, the unit should improve.
The team also returns the exact same coaching staff as last year, something the Patriots have not done in almost a decade. With the addition of Brian Daboll, a former Patriots coach who has now been an offensive coordinator for four different National Football League teams, the staff might be at its strongest.
The offensive line also remains intact from last year. Stevan Ridley, the Patriots leading rusher last season, returnes with fellow passing-back Shane Vereen. Those two, behind the offensive-line, could make up one of the better rushing attacks in the NFL.
Still, with a harder schedule and a tougher AFC, the Patriots will have a hard time replicating their success of 2012. 10 to 11 wins seem like a realistic possibility, and it would be a shock if the team didn’t make the playoffs. New England should be able to win the division, but a first-round bye will be tough to wrangle away from the powerhouse Denver Broncos and Houston Texans.
With thin depth, especially on offense, the Patriots will simply run out of gas and get eliminated in the first-round of the playoffs. But who knows, maybe they surprise us all and win a Superbowl. Don’t count on it though.