The Comeback is previewing all 32 NFL teams from worst to first leading up to the start of the 2018 regular season on Sept. 6. Up next in our preseason rankings are the almost infallible New England Patriots.
2017 in a nutshell: Almost infallible because they didn’t win the Super Bowl this time. Instead, they became the first team in NFL history to lose a Super Bowl despite scoring 33 points. After another dominant season on offense, the defense let New England down against Philadelphia in SB LII.
What’s different: Quite a lot, actually. Gone are Nate Solder, Malcolm Butler, Dion Lewis, Danny Amendola and Brandin Cooks, as well as defensive coordinator Matt Patricia.
Why they could be awesome: Bill Belichick remains the head coach and Tom Brady remains the quarterback.
Why they could suck: Brady is 41-years-old, and he has less support than ever now that Solder, Lewis, Amendola and Cooks are gone. Julian Edelman is facing a four-game suspension to start the regular season.
Major additions: Trailer-sized offensive tackle Trent Brown replaces Solder, Phillip Dorsett and Cordarrelle Patterson join the fray at wide receiver, Jeremy Hill essentially replaces Lewis in the backfield and veteran defensive end Adrian Clayborn is now part of the defensive front.
Major losses: Solder, Butler, Lewis, Amendola, Cooks, Patricia.
Breakout watch: Keeping an eye on two newbies. The first is Brown, who has the measurables you want but didn’t deliver in San Francisco. The second is defensive tackle Danny Shelton, who has the talent to become a Pro Bowler but disappointed in Cleveland. The Pats have a way with players like that.
Position to watch: The receiving corps is a mess, especially with Edelman out. They’ll either need Chris Hogan to rediscover the magic he had in 2016 or they’ll need breakout seasons from semi-reclamation projects Dorsett or Patterson. Again, the Patriots have a way with these types of players. Brady had better hope so.
Prediction: We know they’re going to cruise in a weak division, but the Patriots are no longer the best team in football. They might make the Super Bowl again because the AFC is a lot weaker than the NFC, but they’ll likely be underdogs in that game this time.
12-4, 1st place in the AFC East