Article Written by Erik Anderson
Ah, it’s that time of year again. Players are fighting for roster spots, Hard Knocks is on and the regular season is right around the corner. In New England, the Red Sox are fighting for a playoff spot. In a couple of weeks, though, the focus will shift to the Patriots and soon after, Tom Brady, everyone’s family member (and the nephew of Gawd). There are also always a few big injuries before the season starts; last year it was Jordy Nelson and Kelvin Benjamin and this year the injury gods have picked on the Patriots in particular. So far they’ve been hit with a season-ending injury to Offensive Lineman Sebastian Vollmer, Running Back Dion Lewis will be out for the first month and a half, and Defensive End Rob Ninkovich will miss some time. Many others are sidelined as well.
Going into the season, things were looking bright as usual for the perennial contender Pats. The additions of Martellus Bennett and Chris Hogan among some offseason tweaks to an already star-studded roster were key, but as the offseason progressed things did not look as bright. “Deflategate” came to its end and as a result Tom Brady’s four game suspension was reinstated. The collective thought among Patriots fans was “we will get through the first four games at 3-1 or 2-2 at worst, get Brady back and wreak havoc on the rest of the league.”
During those first four games the Patriots will open the season in Arizona to face the Cardinals and then return home for three games against Miami, Houston and Buffalo. Brady returns the following week at Cleveland. Other key matchups include Week 7 at Pittsburgh, Week 10 versus Seattle and Week 15 at the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos. New England’s two games against the Jets will also be intriguing now that Ryan Fitzpatrick is back with Gang Green as they try to challenge for the AFC East title.
With an amazing collection of talent that the Patriots have it is hard to pick against them in the AFC, especially with the Steelers having Le’Veon Bell suspended for 3 games and Martavis Bryant gone for the entire year. Even former Defensive Player of the Year, James Harrison, could be suspended on the basis of the PED investigation depending on what “that crook”, Commissioner Roger Goodell decides. In Denver, the Broncos lost two key starters on defense (Malik Jackson and Danny Trevathan) and have a quarterback battle between Mark Sanchez, rookie Paxton Lynch, and Trevor Siemian. Yikes. If Siemian were to win the starting job he would be the first quarterback in NFL history to start a defending Super Bowl champion’s season opener with no NFL career pass attempts.
I have the Patriots going 13-3. Losing to the Cardinals without Brady and at Pittsburgh Week 7 will have home field advantage locked up so they will lose Week 17 to the Dolphins while resting the starters. With a deep and talented offense and defense, I see the Patriots winning Super Bowl LI over the Arizona Cardinals for Brady and Belichick’s fifth ring together.
**These are not my predictions for the real NFL awards but for regards of the Patriots only
MVP: Tom Brady
Tom Brady is the glue for this team. The greatest quarterback of all time even at age 39, shows no sign of slowing down.
Offensive Player of the Year: Rob Gronkowski
The second most important player on this team. This lovable goon, a 4-time First Team All-Pro is Brady’s go-to red zone target. When he is healthy the offense is one of the top in the league and when not there is an obvious hole in the offense.
Defensive Player of the Year: Jamie Collins
The Second-Team All-Pro linebacker who missed four games last year with an illness looks like he has returned to his freakishly athletic form and then some. In two preseason games Collins had a pick six and some bone jarring hits. If he can stay healthy he will be a top-five linebacker in the league.
Biggest Disappointment: Marcus Cannon
With the injury to former Pro Bowl Tackle Sebastian Vollmer, Marcus Cannon is the likely man for the job. But, he has had many opportunities to make some plays yet time and time again, he disappoints.