Why they will return to the AFC Championship Game: Tom Brady is the main reason why the Patriots have the best chance of returning to the conference championship game. He continues to play at an elite level and he is clearly the top quarterback in the AFC. It is almost a given that the Patriots will win their division considering they have done just that in eight of the past nine seasons. The defense should be more athletic in 2012 with the addition of first-round picks Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower.
Why they won't return to the AFC Championship Game: There are still concerns on the defensive side of the ball. They finished the 2011 season ranked 31st in total defense and pass defense. They added nice pieces via the draft, but there likely will be an adjustment period before those rookies can have a major impact. By letting Mark Anderson depart and failing to re-sign an injured Andre Carter, the Patriots must find a way to replace 20 of their 40 sacks from last season. The offense is in very good shape, but New England must replace two very dependable players in OT Matt Light and RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis.
Pete Prisco (CBS Sports) Playoff possibilities: What every team needs to make the postseason.
New England Patriots: They will be in the Super Bowl if ... they improve a defense that was ranked 31st last season, and dead last in first downs allowed. The main focus: Improve the pass rush.
- Jeff Howe serves up some leftover quotes on Nate Solder from his former high school coach Bob Marken, who refers to him as a "Freak of nature".
- Jeff Howe also adds some notes and quotes on Nate Solder from the head coach at Colorado (while Solder was there) Dan Hawkins. Good stuff.
- Jeff Howe examines the team position by position and concludes that the Patriots are good at quarterback with a nicely-tiered depth chart.
- Travis Lazarczyk talks with former Patriot Patrick Pass, who shares his thoughts on how he played the FB position with NE.
- Mike Reiss points out the Patriots rookies dominated the "Ultimate Rookie Challenge" at the NFL's annual rookie symposium.
- Boston.com takes a close look at the Patriots opponents in the upcoming season: Seattle Seahawks.
- Field Yates scouts the Patriots roster: Guards.
Mike Rodak analyzes players on the roster bubble and where they may potentially fit in 2012: S Nate Ebner - RB Joseph Addai.
- Will O'Toole says Wes Welker may be the Pats' best receiver, but Bill Belichick has won Super Bowls without him.
- Field Yates says the available remaining cap space for the Patriots is $10,873,988. They are 11th in terms of most available space.
- Field Yates reports the 2012 supplemental draft will be held on July 12th.
- Austin Pollack thinks Robert Kraft's desire to put an NFL franchise in London doesn't make much sense.
- Tom E. Curran sorts through Bart Scott's pledge that the NY Jets will lose it's "sense of entitlement".
- Tom Archdeacon (Dayton Daily News) Matt Light - Headed to TV after the NFL.
- Darin Gantt (ProFootballTalk) Matt Light working on a deal to join ESPN.
- Jason La Canfora (CBS Sports) Breaking down chances of teams securing franchised players to long-term deals. Not looking good for Welker.
- Gil Brandt (NFL.com) Unsung heroes of special teams. Matthew Slater makes the list.
- Paul Daugherty (SI) Football is the only way out for some, despite threat of concussions.
- Mike Florio (ProFootballTalk) Playoff turnover trend may not hold this year.
- John Clayton (ESPN) How long is too long for an O-line?
- John Clayton (ESPN) League scores big on blackouts; Mailbag.
- Mike Florio (ProFootballTalk) Vilma complaint outlines all alleged flaws in bounty case.
- Jim Trotter (SI) NFLPA has legitimate reason to go to bat for Brees in contract talks.
- AP Report (Star-Ledger) Supreme Court sides with Janet Jackson, CBS on "wardrobe malfunction" fine.