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Sunday September 7, 2008 9:02 am

NFL Preview: New England Patriots




Posted by Dennis Velasco Categories: NFL,

Tom Brady is the unquestioned leader of the New England Patriots

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
2007 RECORD: 16-0

Overview: As you can see above, the New England Patriots went undefeated during the regular season and they just missed out on another Super Bowl win thanks to Eli Manning playing like his brother Peyton, and David Tyree making one of the most amazing catches you’ll ever see.  So, what should we expect from the Patriots after they came thisclose to a perfect complete season?  Nothing less than more of the same in recent years - winning.

Offense: Tom Brady was named the 2007 NFL MVP and also achieved the all-time record for touchdown passes in a season with an impressive 50.  Brady also threw for 4,806 yards.  There is no questioning the greatness of Brady, who has consistently been one of the top quarterbacks in the game, even when he didn’t have a wide receiver like Randy Moss, who had a bounceback season after two very disappointing ones while with the Oakland Raiders.  Moss now holds the single-season record for TD receptions with 23 after only one season with the Pats and to say that he and Brady have a connection on the field is an understatement.  However, Moss wouldn’t be the only one with that type of rapport as Brady looks to Wesley Welker regularly, which is proven by the fact that Welker has the Patriots’ single season record for receptions with 112.  Looking for the passing game to continue to be strong.  In the backfield, Laurence Maroney was solid as he ran for 835 yards, while also scoring six times.  Maroney has a reliable back-up in Sammy Morris.  The Patriots also signed former Oakland Raiders RB LaMont Jordan to help add some depth.  Can lightning strike twice with a former Raider?

Defense: Considering this is head coach Bill Belichick’s forte, the defense will always be good with it’s disguised coverage and rushing attacks, but it’s the personnel’s ability to do many things well that makes this group special.  Pro Bowler Richard Seymour leads the pack of front seven players.  Look at his statistics and you may not think he’s a great player.  Seymour is a great player because team’s don’t run in his direction!  Another Pro Bowler at the line, Vince Wilfork clogs the middle, but isn’t a typical stone wall against the run because he’s agile enough to chase down receivers.  On the left side, Ty Warren simply dominates and will always hurry the quarterback.  The front three is as good as any in the league, if not THE best.  The linebacking corps has two Pro Bowlers in Mike Vrabel who is coming off his best season and Adalius Thomas who now has a year under his belt with this defensive system, so expect bigger things from him this season.  The Pats are hoping rookie Jerod Mayo, whom they took in the first round of this past NFL Draft, can do what he did at Tennessee and tackle everything in sight.  He’ll start next to Tedy Brushci, the heart of the defense.  Considering the number of Pro Bowl caliber players in the front seven, it’d just be a crime if the secondary matched the D-line and ‘backers as far as talent.  Seriously, do the Patriots need it all?  Well, if there is any weakness on the defense, this is it.  Asante Samuel decided to leave and make his fortune with the Philadelphia Eagles and Randall Gay went south to play for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers; losing these two to free agency was a real blow to the secondary and the hope is the new starters step up their games.  Well, one person the Patriots won’t have to worry about is the hard-hitting S Rodney Harrison as the veteran still has the talent and edge to match the intensity he plays with.  In the second round, the Pats selected Terrence Wheatley, who will start for the team, but of course is only a rookie.  Ellis Hobbs and James Sanders fill out the rest of the defensive backfield.

Rookies: LB Mayo and CB Wheatley will both start at their respective positions for a team that went 16-0 last season and will have to deal with the amount of media coverage the team will have, in addition to the fact that every team scheduled to play the Pats circles that game because everyone wants to beat them.  Can these two rookies handle the pressure that will be placed upon them, Wheatley?  Shawn Crable will be a backup at linebacker, as well as Jonathan Wilhite, but coming off the sidelines at the CB position.  Of the two, Wilhite has the upside to develop into a starter.  Matt Slater was picked simply to play special teams and is slated to be the Pats’ kick returner.

Prediction: Going undefeated again may be too much to ask for from the Pats, especially since no one will want to become a part of history and a notch on the Pats’ belt.  One should never doubt the Patriots, but 13-3 and winning the division sounds about right.

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