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New Hopes For New England

The old Boston Patriots logo, which will be featured in this year's legacy games involving the Pats.

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?

Biggest Patriot Asset: Tom Brady

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.

Biggest Patriot Liability: Tom Brady

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.

Easy Victory of the Year: Buffalo Bills (Twice)

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.

Eat the Loss: Indianapolis Colts

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.

Season Notes:

  • The Patriots have two Monday night games this season: at home in Week 1 against the Bills and in New Orleans in Week 12 against the Saints.
  • To honor the AFL’s 50th anniversary, the Patriots will have four legacy games featuring retro uniforms and the old logo from their Boston Patriot days: home games in Weeks 1 and 6 against the Buffalo Bills and Tennessee Titans (Houston Oilers), and away games in Weeks 5 and 13 against the Denver Broncos and Miami Dolphins.
  • In Week 7, the Patriots will play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from Wembley Stadium in Merry Olde England. The best part about this is that the Bucs are the ones who have to burn a home game on the event.

Playoff Predictions:

NFC seeds:
1. New York Giants – 2. Atlanta Falcons – 3. Chicago Bears – 4. Arizona Cardinals – 5. Philadelphia Eagles – 6. Dallas Cowboys

AFC seeds:
1. Pittsburgh Steelers – 2. New England Patriots – 3. Indianapolis Colts – 4. San Diego Chargers – 5. Baltimore Ravens – 6. Tennessee Titans

Wildcard Round:
Cowboys over Bears – Cardinals over Eagles – Colts over Titans – Chargers over Ravens

Divisional Round:
Giants over Cowboys – Falcons over Cardinals – Steelers over Chargers – Patriots over Colts

Conference Championship Round:
Giants over Falcons – Patriots over Steelers

Super Bowl:
Patriots over Giants

Pro Bowl:
Who cares? Depends on how much playtime Brady gets.

Prediction Notes:

  • Jay Cutler is moving from one mediocre division to another. With the Bears, he may just be enough.
  • Now that Tony Romo’s alleged distraction Jessica Simpson is gone, look for the Cowboys to squeak back into the playoffs.
  • Look for the Patriots and Colts to reclaim their division titles, though not necessarily as both of the bye teams.
  • In the Divisional Round, look for the Falcons to avenge last season’s playoff loss to the Cardinals and the Patriots to learn from the regular season (and use home field advantage) to take down the Colts.
  • In the AFC title game, the Pats will upset the Steelers. Matt Cassel hung in there with the Steel Curtain last season before losing it in the second half. Don’t expect Brady to make the same mistake.
  • In the Super Bowl, the Giants and Eli Manning will know the wrath of New England and Tom Brady. With memories of two years ago in their minds, the Patriots will just want it more.

Possible Money Wrenches in the Works:

  • The New York Jets and Detroit Lions have promising young quarterbacks. If they get the starting jobs and live up to the hype, they could easily rise to prominence. Ditto for Kansas City and Cassel.
  • Maybe the Panthers will figure out how to keep a good season going.
  • The Giants lost a lot of momentum in the latter quarter of last season. If they can avoid that this time around, they could be on quite a roll.
  • If Brady re-injures himself, it’s pretty much game over, especially if a good backup isn’t in the works. Just press the reset button on Madden ‘10 and hope that’s the last of it.

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Discussion

4 comments for “New Hopes For New England”

  1. New Hopes For New England: It’s almost time to start another season, and the Patriots hope to put last season’s .. http://bit.ly/KdVzC

    Posted by Sports of Boston | August 9, 2009, 10:35 am
  2. The Bills are a very good, young team. I see them finishing 2nd in the division this year. T.O brings a total different dimension to that offense. Having Owens will allow Lee Evans to be single covered, which is deadly. Trent Edwards has looked great in camp and should have his best season .. and then you have to look at both Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson in the backfield.

    Not to mention an otherwise solid defense.

    I wouldn’t be shocked to see Buffalo grab one against us this season.

    Posted by Matt Marcantonio | August 9, 2009, 4:55 pm
  3. The Jets won’t be very good, and the Dolphins’ Wild Cat probably wont be as effective. The Pats should take this division easily, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Bills go 9-7 (hell, they went 8-8 last year with no T.O.)

    Posted by KC | August 10, 2009, 1:40 pm
  4. A lot of people really don’t know how good this Bills team is. Watch out. I know I’m scared.

    Like you said, KC, the Jets and Dolphins really aren’t there yet. Mark Sanchez will be a disaster and teams will figure that Wild Cat out a lot earlier in 2009 than they did in 2008.

    Posted by Matt Marcantonio | August 10, 2009, 4:02 pm

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