All is right again with the New England Patriots after Tom Brady had his four game suspension vacated in court this past week. And as the saga that was Deflategate retreats into the background, and the Patriots prepare to open the 2015 NFL season against the Pittsburgh Steelers, thoughts turn to whether the Patriots can defend their Super Bowl title from last season. While many pundits take issue with Tom Brady’s poor performance during the preseason and note some key player personnel losses in the off-season, such as Darrell Revis, we here at Goliath remain optimistic that the Patriots will again make a run at a title in 2015. And here are the top 10 reasons that we will see the Patriots in Super Bowl 50 come February.
10. The Patriots Are Pissed Off
The last time the Patriots were embroiled in a national scandal was in 2007 when it was discovered that New England personnel were videotaping their opponent’s practices in an effort to learn their various signals and play calls. Dubbed “Spygate” by the media, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was fined $500,000 by the NFL—then the biggest fine ever levied by the league. And Bill Belichick was given the infamous nickname “Belicheat.” And what was the fallout from the Spygate scandal? The Patriots responded by putting up a perfect regular season, becoming the first team in NFL history to record 16 wins and zero losses. The Patriots used their anger at being labeled cheaters to destroy every opponent they faced and rode their anger all the way to the Super Bowl where they lost to the New York Giants due to the now infamous David Tyree “helmet catch.” But if we learned anything from the 2007 season, it is that people should piss the Patriots off at their own risk. Nobody does revenge wins better than this team.
9. All of New England is Behind the Patriots
The rest of America may hate the Patriots and want to see the team brought down, but football fans in New England are squarely behind Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the entire team. And those fans, who are fiercely loyal at both the best and worst of times, are as pissed off as their team. The fan base loyalty was further cemented when the Patriots brought a Super Bowl title back to Boston this past February—the fourth championship of the Brady-Belichick era. Now, feeling vindicated in the Deflategate ordeal, these fans are going to ride a title wave of emotion all season with this team. And you can bet that the Patriots are going to feed off that energy, emotion and support from the fans. What team is going to want to go into Gillette Stadium this season and play the Patriots?
8. The Patriots Offense is the Same as Last Year
While there was some turnover with the Patriots defense this off-season, the offense has more or less remained intact from last year. Tom Brady still has his favorite receiver targets in Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, Brandon LaFell and Danny Amendola. And the Patriots acquired tight end Scott Chandler from the Buffalo Bills this off-season—giving the offence a potentially strong two tight end tandem that they haven’t had since Aaron Hernandez was charged with murder. Tom Brady’s offensive line also remains largely intact, and this is the same offense that the Patriots won last season’s Super Bowl with. There’s no reason to doubt the offense as we head into the 2015 season.
7. The Patriots Defense is Not That Bad
Yes, they lost Vince Wilfork and Darrell Revis, and, yes, the Patriots secondary is not the shutdown force it was last season. But the Patriots still have a very strong defense. Their pass rushing is strong with star players such as Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich, and they should have their defensive captain back this year when Jerod Mayo returns from injury. Also, the Patriots secondary is not as bad as people assume. The team locked up safety Devin McCourty to a long term deal, and the team seems to be working younger players such as cornerback Malcolm Butler into more prominent roles on the defensive side of the ball. And let’s not forget that it was Malcolm Butler, an undrafted rookie free agent, who intercepted the ball in the end zone and secured the Patriots a win in Super Bowl 49. It wasn’t Darrell Revis who made the biggest play in Super Bowl history.
6. Rob Gronkowski is Healthy
As Rob Gronkowski goes, so too does the New England Patriots. And the Pro Bowl tight end is healthy heading into this season—the first time in three years he has been healthy and ready to go in September. After overcoming knee and arm injuries that required several surgeries, Rob Gronkowski returned to form by late October last season and it propelled the Patriots all the way to the Super Bowl. This preseason, the Patriots wisely kept Gronk off the field, planning to preserve their offensive star for the regular season. And with Tom Brady’s favorite and most reliable target on the field, you can bet the Patriots will put up some big offensive numbers this season. The addition of fellow tight end Scott Chandler could also give Tom Brady a second target that is equally large and tough on the field. No matter how the tight end situation plays out, you can bet Tom Brady will feel confident taking the field with Gronk by his side.
5. Peyton Manning is in Decline
To talk about the New England Patriots not making the Super Bowl this season, people have to look at other teams that could potentially knock off New England and win the AFC Championship. This inevitably brings people to the Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning. After all, it was the Denver Broncos that beat the Patriots in the AFC Championship two seasons ago and punched a ticket to Super Bowl 48. However, by all accounts, Peyton Manning is now in serious decline and this is likely to be his last season. Now age 39, and having had several neck surgeries, Peyton Manning is having trouble throwing the ball the way he did in his prime. In a recent interview with Sports Illustrated, Manning admitted that he has numbness in his fingers and has difficulty feeling the football. This is the reality that comes with nearly 20 seasons in the NFL. But with Peyton Manning struggling and the Denver Broncos not the threat they were, then it begs the question of which team can take down the Patriots?
4. The Patriots Have a Weak Schedule
Last year, the New England Patriots had one of their toughest schedules in recent memory and played difficult teams such as the Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions, Kansas City Chiefs and Cincinnati Bengals. This season, the Patriots have one of the easiest schedules (on paper anyway) that we’ve seen in a long time. Their opponents this season include the Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans and Washington Redskins, as well as division opponents the New York Jets, Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills. And while the Dolphins have improved this off-season, the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills still look to be lost without a reliable quarterback under center. When Patriots fans look at the team’s schedule, there is certainly reason for optimism.
3. Andrew Luck Has Never Beaten the New England Patriots
Next to Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, most sports commentators see Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts as the team that could beat the Patriots in the playoffs and win the AFC Championship. And while Andrew Luck has accomplished a lot in his short run in the NFL, the quarterback has never beaten the New England Patriots or raised the level of his game to match Tom Brady’s at critical moments. To date, Andrew Luck is 0-3 against the Patriots. And he tends to turn in his worst performance of the season against the team. He has a combined six touchdown passes and eight interceptions against New England. Whatever the reason for Andrew Luck’s struggles against New England, there is no reason to think this is a trend that will reverse itself this season. When it comes to the Patriots, Andrew has no luck.
2. Bill Belichick is Still the Best Coach in the NFL
Nobody game plans, tinkers and adjusts better than Patriots’ head coach Bill Belichick. “The hoodie,” as he’s known, remains the best coach in the NFL, and he always ensures that his team peaks at the right time and plays their best football in January. No other coach in the NFL game plans for individual teams or runs situational football better than Belichick. And he shows no signs of slowing down or losing his edge as he enters his 15th season as the Patriots’ head honcho. And, like Tom Brady, Bill Belichick is often at his best when he is pissed off and has something to prove, and you can count on that being the case this season after all the controversy with Deflategate.
1. The Patriots Have Tom Brady for the Entire Season
With his four game suspension essentially thrown out by the courts, Tom Brady will play the entire 2015 NFL season—starting all 16 games. The Patriots and their fans do not have to worry that they will have to go with back-up quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo for the first month of the regular season, when their schedule includes games against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys. Instead, Pats Nation can rest easy knowing that QB 12 will be under center for the whole season. And you can expect that Tom Brady will be raring to go and have something to prove after everything he’s been through since Deflategate erupted in January. Tom Brady has had a chip on his shoulder his entire career—since being drafted in the sixth round. That chip has only seemed to grow during his NFL career and you can be sure that Deflategate will just add fuel to Tom Brady’s legendary fire. Opposing teams had better get prepared. Tom Brady is coming for you…