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It’s almost time to start another season, and the Patriots hope to put last season’s disappointment behind them. Training camp is well underway, and the first preseason game is right on the horizon – Thursday August 13th in Philadelphia. Media reports have Bill Belichick upping the ante with an even more strenuous training camp than we’ve seen in previous years. With excitement over draft picks and the returns and departures of key figures, everyone is wondering how the 2009 season will pan out. For the Patriots, the biggest note is obviously the return of Tom Brady to action. What will this mean for their chances?
You can bet that Brady is itching to get back into the swing of things and avenge New England’s honor from his Super Bowl loss and last season’s playoff-less efforts. He knows how to throw the ball effectively and is more than capable of making big plays and utilizing the other players well. (See the numbers he and Randy Moss put up two years ago). He knows Belichick well and should do a good job of integrating the rookies into the Patriots’ methods and re-acclimating returning players to his brand of offense.
For Brady to be used effectively, the Patriots must be sure his knee is 100% ready to go. He has been spotted at team workouts with a brace on the knee, and previous ACL tears have shown us how long recovery can take. At least he was injured right at the beginning of Week 1 last season, so he’s had a whole year to rehab his injury. The best way to make sure Brady is at his best would likely be keeping him working on drills and exercises and using the pre-season games to work out a hierarchy for his new backup quarterbacks in the absence of Matt Cassel.
It may not be a huge blowout, but the Bills have not been a good team, getting worse and worse since their days of being the only team to lose four consecutive Super Bowls. They started alright last year, but blew it in the season’s latter half. This could be indicative of how they will do this season as well. Signing Terrell Owens was a good move to spark their offense, but the wide receiver doesn’t exactly have a history of playing well with others.
The Colts are a strong rival, and always have a thrilling game whenever they meet the Patriots. Brady will likely be looking to test his agility and endurance against previous levels, so look for close heartbreaking losses against historical tough opponents for the Patriots. The Colts are missing key figures themselves, such as head coach Tony Dungy and receiver Marvin Harrison, but overall their team is still essentially intact and requires less adjustment than the Patriots. Add to that the home field advantage against the Pats, and it may be too much.
This year is the Patriots’ turn to face the NFC South, so the Panthers and Falcons could make things interesting. However, the Panthers (over the last decade) have gone a few years in between good seasons, and Matt Ryan is still green.
1. New York Giants – 2. Atlanta Falcons – 3. Chicago Bears – 4. Arizona Cardinals – 5. Philadelphia Eagles – 6. Dallas Cowboys
1. Pittsburgh Steelers – 2. New England Patriots – 3. Indianapolis Colts – 4. San Diego Chargers – 5. Baltimore Ravens – 6. Tennessee Titans
Cowboys over Bears – Cardinals over Eagles – Colts over Titans – Chargers over Ravens
Giants over Cowboys – Falcons over Cardinals – Steelers over Chargers – Patriots over Colts
Conference Championship Round:
Giants over Falcons – Patriots over Steelers
Patriots over Giants
Who cares? Depends on how much playtime Brady gets.