Last Year: Won the damn Super Bowl.
Key Acquisitions: Cheating allegations and Matt Flynn!
Key Losses: RB Shane Vereen, RB Stevan Ridley, G Dan Connolly, NT Vince Wilfork, CB Darrelle Revis, CB Brandon Browner, CB Kyle Arrington.
Seriously, where to even begin with this team?
The offseason for the Patriots was… unique. Seven months of bitter squabbling over some balls that may or may not have been deflated. Tom Brady may or may not be a cheater. The Patriots may or may not be a cheating organization. We aren’t any closer to finding the truth, because Goodell got a justice boner and went full force after Brady and the Pats to the detriment of his own lingering credibility. Then lost. Now Patriots fans everywhere can wiggle their fingers at the rest of us, saying, “WE WERE RIGHT ALL ALONG,” even though we don’t actually know that because Goodell screwed up the process so badly.
So, Brady gets to play the opening game on Thursday night against the Steelers. He will probably go full Brady on them, so expect a slaughter of righteous fury. Expect the announcers to spend 60 percent of the airtime commenting on Deflategate and cracking ball inflation jokes. Last time the Patriots got caught in a cheating scandal, they went on a tear across the NFL and would have won everything were it not for a goofy hero named Eli Manning. Will the Pats have that same righteous fury? Will they be the same level of team they were last year? Honestly, I don’t know. It’s hard for anyone to look at the team simply as a team divorced of all this nonsense. The team seemed to finally be out from under Goodell’s thumb, and now, thanks to an investigation that dropped early Tuesday by ESPN, everything is back under a microscope.
But enough of that. What can we actually expect out of the team? Did they improve? They lost longtime defensive anchor Vince Wilfork. The one year rental of Revis brought a Super Bowl, then he bailed once again for the Jets and another huge payday. Both Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley left. Brandon Browner, a troublesome force across from Revis, also left. The secondary looks to be returned to its previous incarnation of bad. The offense still has Brady, Gronk, and Edelman, so they should still be effective. No one expects the Patriots to slum it or lose a lot of games. The Pats will still reach the playoffs, still contend for the one-seed and the Super Bowl, and any result that isn’t that will be considered a failure (by Pats fans) and a pleasant surprise (by the rest of us).