Welcome to Scrawn Football's (completely biased) series of previews for the 2010 NFL season, one team at a time. Today's profile is on the New England Patriots, which I like to call, "The Tom Brady Truffle Shuffle".
The New England Patriots are the luckiest team of the past decade. That's not to say that they didn't make their fair share of slick personnel moves, but the clincher behind three Super Bowls was Tom Brady. Do they win one with Drew Bledsoe? Probably, considering Bill Belichick's game plan versus the Rams was his magnus opus. Would they win that squeaker against Carolina though? Hell naw.
There is no team more despised outside of the Dallas/Pittsburgh two-headed fair-weather fan club than the Patriots. Belichick is cold and conducts himself in a holier-than-thou manner. Brady is a tall quarterback with a supermodel wife. That lends itself to jealousy pretty easily. Also, New England's fanbase presents itself as a consistently woebegone bunch of ignorami that makes you want to punch a cat. The Dreaded Red Sox Syndrome is a reprehensible shield that Pats fans use to hide the fact that they're ugly and no one likes them. Also, RACISTS.*
WHY THEY'RE GOOD
-Tom Brady is fucking Tom Brady. I've spent time pondering this "Winner" gene that guys like Montana and Brady just seem to have and it is infuriatingly incalculable. They're just good, and they make plays that will beat your team consistently. Brady though, still has that ACL to think on, and the fact that he was thoroughly dressed down by Baltimore in the playoffs. His sheen might be starting to wear off, but Football Outsiders had him rated first at QB last season, and until he's dead you can't count him out.
-In the same breath that Brady gets dap, Belichick must get his as well. Even though he's failing to surround himself with anything but hapless yesmen, he's still the leading authority in coaching dictatorships. He's been there, done that, got the rings, and then banged housewives while wearing them. Again, until he's been staked through the heart and dumped into the Marianas Trench, don't count him out.
-Randy Moss isn't the ass-waggling troublemaker he used to be, but he's still an excellent receiver who is a mismatch against nearly everyone he plays against. His only real rival within the division is Revis, and who knows how that whole saga will finish. At times, he can disappear, but the Pats have slowly transitioned to an almost entirely passing offense. With Moss as the linchpin of that offense, they could be in worse hands.
-Vince Wilfork is still a beast and continues to dominate offensive lines with his girthy goodness. That the Patriots were able to hold on to the nosetackle is a huge coup, and even if he's unhappy he'll have to play his way out of it.
-Brandon Merriweather is an understated strong safety (BUT I AM NOW THE STATER). It's easy to make Sean Taylor comparisons due to their pedigrees, but Merriweather is still middling between ballhawk and big hitter. Every year he improves, as dictated by the fact he had five picks and 83 tackles last season. The Pats secondary is in transition, but Merriweather keeps them afloat.
WHY THEY'RE BAD
-Defensive end Ty Warren is on the injured reserve with a hip injury. That means the Patriots now have two subpar defensive ends the year after they gave away Richard Seymour to Oakland. What's their favorite monster truck? I'll bet it's GRAVE DIGGGGGERRRRRRRRRRR. Sorry.
-Their linebackers are a far cry from Boston's Wet Dream (Teddy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel, other assorted douchebags). Jerod Mayo has the rosiest prospects, but he's had his share of injuries that could flare up with the poke of a voodoo needle. Adalius Thomas is gone, along with his unfulfilled promise, and the Pats' best pass rusher is Tully Banta-Cain. TBC had ten sacks, but five of those came against Buffalo, who aren't good. He also got cut last year, if you recall.
-Logan Mankins' contract issues are bad juju. By all accounts, he's a mauler that dominates at the point of attack. The longer he stays unsigned, the longer the Pats' running game is that much worse, and Brady's knee is that much more vulnerable.
-The Welker/Edelman situation is a such: If Welker is healthy, Edelman becomes the third option. If Welker is still hurt, Edelman moves up the depth chart. Welker is already practicing and playing in mock games, so it looks like he's hellbent on returning. But, he had his knee demolished no longer than eight months ago. His rapid recovery might be fear over Edelman's rise, which means the Pats could be stuck with a mediocre Welker that could just hurt himself again.
INCORRECT PREDICTION: 10-6, SECOND IN AFC EAST, POSSIBLE PETER KING BRONER'S
*Added for effect. Probably untrue.