Last year: 12-4, AFC East champs, lost in AFC Championship
Acquisitions: Danny Amendola, Aaron Dobson, Tommy Kelly, LeGarrette Blount
Departures: Aaron Hernandez, Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Danny Woodhead, Patrick Chung
Dearly departed: Odin Lloyd
Player brought on just to annoy us for the preseason: Tim Tebow
Vegas win total over/under: 11 wins
Five previously unknown players who are popular fantasy sleepers just because they are now part of the Pats offense:
– Kenbrell Thompkins
– Zach Sudfeld
– Aaron Dobson
– Josh Boyce
– Matthew Mulligan
Fan forecast by Paul “Fitzy” Fitzgerald:
SHIT PATS FANS SAY: 2013
Amendola’s gonna be bettah.
Well, the season can’t end on a drop by Welkah.
Aaron Hernandez might be the dumbest criminal evah.
I think Brady can play till he’s fifty.
If Gronk stays healthy we’re goin’ all the way.
Everything went to hell once Tebow came to town.
Where the fahk did this Sudfeld guy come from?
I think Belichick just cut another 2nd round draft pick.
Dood, Mistah Kraft is a pimp!
“You’re welcome, haters. And sports media. And internet.” That’s what the Pats should have said as they kept the beverages of those groups refreshed the past six months. It was easily the most entertaining and unbelievable offseason in Patriots history, an organization known for being as buttoned down as a midwestern insurance surveyor, providing enough colorful headlines to keep ESPN’s boner at full-mast. Wes Welker deciding he didn’t wanna be “Welkah” anymore, trading Foxboro for Denver, Tom Brady for rival Peyton Manning…the arrival of Tim Tebow’s holy sideshow…the surgical creation of FrankenGronk… Aaron Hernandez living out a real life Grand Theft Auto gaming session… it was an off-season that was the metaphorical equivalent to “The Red Wedding”. Brutal. Upsetting. Shocking. Very, well, un-Patriots like. Many want to point out that the end has been coming for a while, and that age and arrogance were going to catch up to Bill Belichick and his team. I like to ask those people what it’s like being a Jets fan.
Let’s just take a quick step back – what is “The Patriot Way”? It’s winning. Pretty plain & simple. Winning with elite leadership and disposable foot soldiers. Winning ruthlessly and consistently, in an age of parity and increased competition. Winning more games than you lose, your division, and the right to expect to be there in the end when it counts. 10 of the last 12 AFC Easts. Five Super Bowl appearances in that time. Ho-frigging-hum. But let’s not mistake “The Patriot Way” for being a way of life where you get drafted by the Pats and suddenly you crap rainbows and vomit sunshine. Mr. Kraft runs a tight ship, and puts on a good face for the community, but don’t think he doesn’t know Belichick is a cockasaurus. He’s a businessman. He likes to make money. He likes winning. Emperor Belichick and his padewan Tom Brady help him do both, a lot. In turn Kraft gets to date a model, sport an electric blue blazer and take awkward pictures with Tiger Woods and Jay-Z. Krafty!
Back to football – trending over the past two seasons for the Pats was an inability to muster any offensive momentum in the second half against good teams. A trend that produced finale of “Battlestar Galactica” kind of disappointing results. Their 2012 season ended with a 28-13 home loss in the AFC Championship to the eventual Super Bowl champion Ravens, a loss that saw the Pats get out to an early lead, only to then implode in a very, shall we say, un-Patriot like way, while Joe Flacco had sex with the Patriots’s wife right in front of them, then drank their good scotch. It was a demoralizing loss in that you might only get so many of these chances and have to make the most of them before Brady gets his AARP card. And this was the follow-up to the Pats gut-wrenching loss in Super Bowl 46 to their dream crushers (or dream makers to you Hatriots Nation members), the New York Giants. Each loss saw the Pats unable to get anything going in the second half. And if they got anything going Bernard Pollard knocked it out, or Wes Welker dropped it. While these seem like good rich person problems to have for the many have-nots of the NFL, something had to be fixed, else the Pats risk re-branding themselves as the new version of the Jim Kelly era Buffalo Bills.
So, with recent championships failures in tow, and their dickstorm of an offseason behind them, where do we find the 2013 iteration of Brady & Belichick, Inc? A complete overhaul, whether intentional or not, of the pass catching people was engineered. An aging wide receiver corps saw Welker take his talents a Mile High, while Brandon Lloyd was told to be moody and aloof elsewhere and Deion Branch just slipped out the back and left his number in Brady’s locker. In their place comes a Welker clone and three rookies. Not exactly what you’d think to give a superstar QB in the twilight of his career, but Brady’s made fancier dinners with lesser groceries. Danny Amendola is the replacement girlfriend for Welker in that he looks an awful lot like the slot receiver Brady was so in love with the past six years. Same height, same build, same college, same pedigree (undrafted, shifty). The only problem is Welker was pick-up truck tough, and Amendola is chandelier glass fragile. If he can stay on the field Brady won’t find the time to miss Welker. If a strong breeze blows Amendola immediately gets listed as questionable (he played in only 12 games the past two seasons combined). And when Amendola misses time (he skipped two preseason games) that will thrust more responsibility onto the shoulders of Brady’s rookie receiver trio.
Aaron Dobson, Josh Boyce and Kenbrell Thompkins arrive with little hype, low expectations and tremendous responsibility. None come with much hype – the closest thing to that would be Dobson’s youtube reel of circus catches in college. And now, instead of playing behind savvy veterans, learning the game as boys from men, they are the men. The men who must gain Brady’s trust and confidence, reading his body language, interpreting it with physical precision. And while Boyce and Dobson show different levels of professional promise, the girl at the prom who’s caught Brady’s eye is Thompkins, an undrafted rookie free agent out of Cincinnati who’s 25 and plays like a guy who’s been in the league long enough to be 25. Thompkins and Brady have developed an immediate connection the way Brady did with Deion Branch back in 2002. If there’s any chance Thompkins can duplicate Branch’s rookie success the Pats passing game will be fine. And if either Boyce or Dobson feel like becoming David Givens 2.0 that’d be just dandy, too. Brady will have to get accustomed to throwing to a lot of undrafted targets as, in addition to Amendola and Thompkins, rookie TE Zach Sudfeld felt no Radio City love last April. The rookie out of Nevada seems Gronk-ish in his size and demeanor, but Sudfeld will actually replace more of what Hernandez did as a “move” tight end. He has the size, speed and maneuverability to make a big offensive impact immediately, especially with Gronk shelved temporarily. Plus he can establish himself as local favorite given that he looks like a bass player for a metal band. But Gronk he’s not. There is only one Gronk. And Gronk is on target to be back by Week 4 when the Pats begin a wicked stretch (@Atlanta, @Cincy, home vs New Orleans). Pats fans will be able to Rock Out With Their Gronk Out once again. As will Brady, who’s red zone numbers are off the charts with his favorite brohemoth on the field. The challenge will be keeping Gronk healthy as the Pats two most recents quests for VLT glory have been Gronk-free.
Regarding Gronk’s former Boston TE Party pal…well first, f*ck that guy. He sold us on a bill of goods that never existed. He caused the most stress and angst for everything Patriots since the two week lead-up to some game that was played in the desert five and a half years ago. There are plenty of miscreants and thugs in professional football. But a doped up alleged multiple murderer who lead his off-field life the way Denzel Washington’s Alonzo Harris lead his on-screen in “Training Day”? Shit. Didn’t see that coming. Little did we realize that when Hernandez scored a touchdown he wasn’t “making it rain”, he was wiping the extra angel dust off his hands. The guy had first round talent but didn’t slip to the fourth round by accident. But a low maturity test score and a rep for burning spliffs does not a Scarface make you. And it’s a shame, too. A life was lost. Families shattered. Collateral tragic damage as far as the eye can see down Route 1. From a football perspective the Pats had something going with their dynamic TE duo. It was an offensive cornerstone to build on. Obviously the team thought so because the Pats spent big money in 2012 to lock Gronk and Hernando up. Now the state has to spend money to lock Hernandez up.
And on the subject of Florida guys who didn’t pan out out – can we just all agree that the Tim Tebow experiment was just that – an experiment. There was no harm in taking a chance during training camp to see if the kid might have enough talent to be a development project. He was not signed to be a human Flex Position, nor the team chaplain, nor to be a sponsor to former teammate Aaron Hernandez (and what an offseason the 2009 Gators offense had, hey?) They wanted to see if the guy who drafted him and the coach who’s besties with Tebow’s college coach could coax the best out of Jesus McQuarterback. And as far as pocket passers go they did. And his best was not good enough. So it was fun. Social media snark flowed like wine. Sports networks went apeshit. And now it’s over. Nothing to see here. Not the droids or the 3rd string quarterback you were looking for. Move along. CUT TO: the children of the Phillippines, happy once again to have the smiling American available for circumcisions and Bible study.
If there’s one thing in a sea of turmoil, turnover and tumult you can depend it’s the GQB himself, who’s doing just fine. Maybe better than fine. Any worry about a Brady in decline at age 36 is like worrying “Breaking Bad” will have a disappointing finale. He’s aging damn well, and looks as motivated as ever to prove his greatness and capability of turning the mediocre majestic. I like to think of Brady at QB for the Pats often times as a really good chef on the show “Chopped”. Each year he’s handed a different basket of ingredients, or receivers to throw to, and when time’s up a delicious looking meal has been made. His consistency is truly what makes the Pats great. And even though Gisele would probably love Tommy to drive her to yoga and bring their upsettingly good looking kids to the park, he has a bunch of other kids in the park he needs to chaperone first.
How will all of this play out in their division? If the youthful defense takes a step forward… if the running game continues to flourish… and if there’s anything resembling synergy between Brady and his new pass pals then a fifth straight AFC East title shouldn’t be too difficult. Overcoming adversity, playing disciplined football and not shooting themselves in the dick is kinda what the Pats do. The only legitimate challenger could be the upstart Dolphins, who believe “It’s Our Time”. I know, they went Goonies – that’s so cute!OK, they’re young, talented, on the rise and definitely a more formidable foe than in years past. But the jury’s out for many on Tannehill. He’s only been playing the QB position as long as Brady’s had children. And the impact Mike Wallace will have on the field might not mirror the impact he made in their press office and pro shop. Miami’s defense was already good. Adding underrated cornerback Brent Grimes means more opposing QBs might be eating penis cake this fall. Will it be enough to push them past the Pats? Doubtful, but then again that’s why they INSERT CLICHE FOOTBALL EXPRESSION HERE. As for the rest of the East…the Bills are in transition and will need time to get healthy on defense and let E.J. Manuel figure out if he wants to be the next Vince Young or the next Cam Newton. And the Jets, well… best to just let that tire fire burn itself out. I almost feel badly bringing up the Buttfumble. Then I close my eyes and remember Thanksgiving night 2012 with great fondness and start laughing out loud. Next time you’re in desperate need of a quick LOL to get you through the day, always go Buttfumble. Here, just watch and try not to spit take…
Will the Pats heal and jell quickly enough to make a deep run in the AFC? Maybe. The Broncos are everyone’s sexy AFC pick, and Houston has a bone to pick with the Pats as well. The road will be littered with the usual doubters, haters, challengers and detractors, which is fine. Some prefer to “Ignore The Noise”. I choose to “Embrace The Hate”, because nobody hates anything that’s not really successful. And who knows, maybe the crapshow that was their Summer of 2013 galvanizes this team, and Brady & Belichick make way to the Meadowlands to win their fourth Super Bowl in the house of the man-boy who’s twice deprived them in recent years. There’d finally be no more more talk of Tebow, Hernandez, crimes, cover-ups and letdowns. #12 and The Hoodie would be the best QB/coach combo in history. Foxboro Faithful would be overheard telling each other, “See, I told you those guys would get their fahkin fourth ring!” That would be some welcome Shit for Pats Fans to say in 2014.