Sometimes, often actually, I will read an article written about the Pats, and I will be dumbfounded by the total ignorance of the opinion put forth.
One particularly slanted opine was by James Walker, who was all too happy to point out the reasons why the Patriots will be nothing more than an 'also ran' this season... which I am about to counter, point by point:
Reason No. 1: Too many changes at receiver
Analysis: New England had the NFL's No. 1 offense and No. 4 passing game in 2012. If it's not broken, why did the Patriots make so many changes? New England opted to let go of starting receivers Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd, who combined for an astounding 192 receptions, 2,265 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. Rest assured, the Patriots will not get that kind of production from their 2013 replacements. Look for the Patriots' passing game to take a step back in 2013, particularly on the outside at wide receiver.
Truth is, it WAS broken. For sure injuries, in particular Gronk's injures, had much to do with the end results of the 2011 and 2012 seasons. But if you look at the 2010, 2011, and 2012 post season failures one thing was clear.
Welker, Branch, and Lloyd (and other lesser players those seasons), weren't going to improve or get faster with age, not at this stage of their careers... and they couldn't get it done.
So the only way to fix it was to bring in new talent and try something different. And that is what the Patriots have done in bringing in Amendola, Dobson, Boyce, and the rest... not only younger new talent, but more depth as well.
There are no guarantees that it will work out... but sitting on what they had wasn't likely to produce better results against the likes of the Seahawks or 49ers Ds if the Pats were to make it to the SB this year.
Reason No. 2: Too many injury concerns
Analysis: The Patriots are entering the 2013 season with major injury questions. With so many changes at wide receiver, they expect to lean heavily on their two tight ends, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. But should they? Gronkowski is headed for his fourth surgery on his previously broken right arm, and it’s questionable if he’s going to be ready for the start of the regular season. It's also uncertain if Gronkowski's arm will ever be the same and whether this will be a recurring issue. Hernandez also has been out after major shoulder surgery this offseason.
Indeed, a lot of concerns... what team doesn't have them? Is Suggs an injury concern? Is Polamalu an injury concern? Name me a contending AFC team that doesn't have an impact player or two that they aren't worried about making it through the season healthy?
I always say, if the Patriots can make it into the playoffs healthy, that would make all the difference in the world... if the Ravens had lost Pitta and Suggs in the AFCCG and the Patriots had a healthy Gronk and Jones... would the outcome have been different?
The teams that are the most healthy come the post season are the ones most likely to dominate, the Patriots in 2003 and 2004 got healthy players back heading into the post season... and in years like 2006 and 2012, they had lost several key starters by the time they had gotten to the AFCCG, and even more were lost during those games.
Reason No. 3: Tom Brady is a year older
Analysis: Patriots fans have become spoiled by the consistent greatness of Brady. He is expected to put up Hall of Fame numbers every year for New England to be successful. But I’ve seen a major problem with New England for the past few seasons. The Patriots rely on Brady too much and too often, and eventually that will start catching up with the team. Brady, who will be 36 in August, is a year older with a year of more wear and tear. There is already talk of Brady “seeing ghosts” in the pocket as he reaches the tail end of his career. The older he gets, the less Brady wants to get hit. Brady was sacked 59 times the past two seasons, which is the highest two-year total since 2002-03.
I think Brady was seeing more ghosts in 2009 than 2012, someday his game will take a drastic dip, it happens to them all... Marino, Elway, Montana... but chances are 2013 is not the year that happens. Most likely its still a couple seasons away.
Reason No. 4: Tougher schedule
Analysis: For the past several years, New England has taken advantage of one of the easiest schedules in the NFL. It won't get that chance this season. The Patriots are going from the 32nd-ranked strength of schedule in 2012 to the 14th-ranked strength of schedule in 2013. The Denver Broncos, Ravens, Atlanta Falcons, Houston Texans, Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers are on New England’s 2013 slate. It will be harder for the Patriots to surpass last year’s 12-4 record.
Wow... who would have thought that last year when they had to face the Seahawks, Ravens, 49ers, and Broncos that THAT was an easy schedule?
I mean, having to face the FOUR best teams in the NFL last year was an easy season? Really?
Last year they had the Texans, this year they have the Texans, last year the Broncos, this year the Broncos, last year the Ravens, this year the Ravens... and I'd swap the 49ers and Seahawks for the Falcons and Bengals without a moments hesitation. Only a masochist wouldn't.
Saying last year the Patriots had a cakewalk season, and this one is brutal in comparison is just... dumb.
Reason No. 5: The AFC East is stronger
Analysis: New England hasn't had much in the way of solid competition in the AFC East lately. No division team beside the Patriots finished with a winning record in 2011 or 2012. That should change this season. Both the Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills are improved and will push the Patriots harder than they have in the past. Miami, in particular, has made closing the gap with New England its primary offseason objective. The Bills could make waves, too, if they get solid quarterback play from Kevin Kolb or rookie EJ Manuel this year. Overall, the AFC East won’t be the same cupcake division for the Patriots it has been in recent seasons.
The Dolphins COULD be an improved team... COULD be... a lot of new faces came in, replacing a lot of familiar faces that left. There is less certainty that those changes will be for the better, than there is that all the Patriots changes at WR will work out. I see a Fins team building its way back to contention, but I do not see a team at all ready to contend now.
As for the Bills... Kolb and Manuel are going to terrorize the Patriots in year one with the Bills? Really?
Honestly... I'm more concerned that the Jets will, through some fluke, have a good day offensively WITHOUT Sanchez at the helm, and that good'ol Rex will put together a masterful Defensive gameplan and pull out a win, than I am worried about either the Fins or Bills...
The Fins and Bills... Really???
Here is the real deal, if you objectively look at the steps back teams like the Steelers and Ravens have taken this year, and consider that the Texans are still a stud QB away from being a real threat, and the Colts just aren't there yet... there is no reason not to expect this Patriots team to be in the AFCCG again this year.
His full article: