July 26, 2012; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick talks with the media during opening day of training camp at the team practice facility. Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-US PRESSWIRE
The first preseason game is only a few days away, and so it's time to turn my attention to that, which makes today the last of my Patriots Over/Under series. And what better way to close out this series with the only number that really matters at all: regular season wins. At the end of the day, I could honestly give two Tebows how many sacks, interceptions, touchdowns, fumbles, penalties, or Bob Kraft audition videos this team puts together throughout the course of the year, just as long as they come away with the W on Sundays.
Figuring out regular season wins is somewhat of an inexact science, and of course by inexact science I mean a complete guess. But as much as I hate to admit it lest the football gods send some bad juju our way, the Pats have a lot going for them this year, and I'd like to think that Tommy B is a man on a mission at the moment. That's why I'm putting the over/under on regular season wins at 13.
Why you should bet the over: On paper, this is the best offense that Tom Brady has ever had around him. The addition of Brandon Lloyd to an already potent passing attack should translate into big plays and big points all season long. The lack of a true deep threat last season allowed opposing safeties to stay closer to home, bracket Gronk and Welker, and force Tommy B to take what the defenses gave him. With Lloyd going deep, safteties won't be able to cheat up as much, which means more running room for all of the under receivers. On the other side of the ball, this unit is much improved and will hopefully help the Patriots win games because of the defense rather than in spite of them. You figure if this team won 13 games last year and came within one dropped pass away from winning the Super Bowl with no deep threat and a lousy defense, this year the Patriots should be able to match that at the very least. Oh, and their schedule isn't so shabby, either.
Why you should bet the under: This may just be my inner paranoid, obnoixious, glass-is-half-empty Hank talking right now, but there's something about the level of confidence and optimism surrounding the 2012 Patriots that isn't sitting right with me at all. We haven't even played a single preseason game, and I've already seen three or four articles about whether or not the Patriots will go 16-0 on the year. Members of the media swooning over how Brady and Lloyd are lighting it up at practice. Dont'a Hightower is playing like the illicit lovechild of Ray Lewis and Dick Butkus. 12,000 plus people showed up to watch their very first practice. Maybe it's just me, and it might just be that everyone is excited for football again after a long offseason, but I simply can't shake the feeling that the average fan is expecting this team to score upwards of 40 points per game on their way to another absolutely dominant, record-shattering season. I hope that I'm wrong here, but in most cases extremely high expectations are recipes for disappointment, and this Patriots team could very much slip a few times along the way. Luckily, with a coach like Bill Belichick, there is no way that New England will ever buy into its own hype, but the Super Bowl hangover is a very real thing, and it's something he'll have to stay on top of at all times. Yes, the schedule is cake, but there are plenty of trap games in there (week 3 at Seattle immediately comes to mind), and New England always seems to drop a game they have absolutely no business losing every year. The Patriots should still win the AFC East, barring an epic collapse, and I'm fairly confident that 11-5 should at the very least earn the Pats a home playoff game. But personally, I really, really don't want to go into this year with the mindset that an 11 or 12 win season means this team underachieved.