I have a few predictions for the 2015 Patriots seasons. I'm sticking them on my refrigerator, I'm tattooing them on the moon, and I'm riding with these through the end of the season*.
(*subject to change)
I'm going to make some predictions, some stretch goals, and will highlight the best and worst case scenarios for the New England Patriots. Walk with me.
Prediction #1: The Patriots will win the AFC East and go on to AT LEAST the AFC Championship Game. I'm not making a Super Bowl prediction because even I won't jinx the football gods. But the AFC East might as well be renamed "Bill Belichick's Playhouse" and New England is going to rampage through the league.
Prediction #2: The Patriots will rank #3 in offense, but only because they rest their starters against the Dolphins in Week 17. I'm on the record predicting a Dolphins second half swoon due to their brutal backstretch, and I don't trust the quarterbacks of the Jets or Bills. Patriots will have their playoff seed locked up going into Week 17.
Prediction #3: The Patriots will at least tie for the best record in the league and Bill Belichick still won't win Coach of the Year. Sorry, Bill.
Goal #1: Tom Brady will throw for 40+ touchdown passes. You might ask yourself, is that even a stretch goal? To which I reply, Brady's actually only thrown for more than 39 touchdowns once in his career (2007). 40+ totally counts as a stretch goal, sorry if that seems cheap.
Goal #2: Rob Gronkowski will catch at least 19 of them. How about this? I think Gronk and Scott Chandler are going to combine for at least 25 touchdown receptions and I think Gronkowski is primed to post the greatest season a tight end has ever seen.
Goal #3: LeGarrette Blount will pick up over 1,200 yards from scrimmage. A little more low key, but I believe that Blount has been working on his receiving skills this offseason and that he'll become an even greater overall threat on offense.
Goal #4: Chandler Jones is going to have a career year as one of the top 5 pass rushers in the league. Oh yeah. Big prediction here. Jones has put on strength weight and he's an absolutely dominant force when his switch is on. I think he's going to finally put everything together.
Goal #5: Malcolm Butler is going to collect 7+ interceptions, including a pick six. He might not deter passes like Darrelle Revis, but Butler is certainly going to take advantage of the throws that come his direction. He gets his hands on everything.
Worst Case Scenario: Ryan Tannehill steps up to become one of the top quarterbacks, and the Dolphins have an entirely healthy season as their defense behind Ndamukong Suh is best in the league. Tyrod Taylor is actually the answer to the Bills prayers. Ryan Fitzpatrick (did you know that he went to Harvard?) and Chan Gailey reunite to help beat the Jets defeat the Patriots, just like Fitzy and Chan did with the Bills.
In the mean time, Peyton Manning reemerges as the top quarterback in the league, with the only challenger being his replacement in Indianapolis, Andrew Luck. Joe Flacco decides to play like every day is the playoffs, and some say that Ben Roethlisberger is still shrugging off pass rushers to this day.
The Patriots finish 10-6 and miss out on a wild card spot to the Andy Reid-led Kansas City Chiefs. Alex Smith has still not targeted a wide receiver.
J.J. Watt is featured in sixteen regular commercials during game day.
In the NFC, Chip Kelly leads the Eagles to an identical 10-6 records and wins Coach of the Year. Aaron Rodgers continues to thrive without Jordy Nelson and leads the Packers back to the NFC Championship game. The Seahawks win the Super Bowl.
The day before the Super Bowl, ESPN releases another SpyGate piece that makes no sense.
Andy Dalton is still average.
Best Case Scenario: Rob Gronkowski burst out of the gate and not only posts the best season for a tight end, but breaks all of Randy Moss's and Calvin Johnson's records. Tom Brady regains every single passing record in a fit of rage. Julian Edelman collects over 120 receptions and breaks most of Wes Welker's single season marks, finally casting off the shadow of his predecessor. Brandon LaFell returns from his foot injury and picks up right where he left off in 2014, while Aaron Dobson uses the first five games of the season to become a reliable offensive target. Danny Amendola plays 16 games.
In the trenches, Shaq Mason shows why he was one of the top interior line prospects by quickly pulling together his pass blocking ability, as Bryan Stork (healthy after missing Week 1!) and Tre Jackson combine to form one of the best interiors in the league. LeGarrette Blount picks up 1,400 yards from scrimmage behind their blocking.
On defense, Chandler Jones, Dominique Easley, and Jabaal Sheard combine to create one of the scariest pass rushes in the entire league, with blitzes from a fully healthy Jerod Mayo, Dont'a Hightower, and Jamie Collins leaving offensive coordinators awake at night.
Malcolm Butler quickly becomes the top cornerback in the league and opposing quarterbacks stop throwing in his direction. Devin McCourty frightens opposing quarterbacks from throwing any passes five yards beyond the line of scrimmage. The Patriots still somehow only beat the Jets by one score.
The Patriots make it into the playoffs as the top seed and easily dispatch both the Ravens and the Broncos in successive weeks (the Houston Texans supplant the Colts as the AFC South representative). Joe Flacco throws deep arm punt after deep arm punt, while Peyton Manning decides to retire after Rob Ninkovich intercepts four consecutive passes. In the Super Bowl, the Patriots get to face Eli Manning and the Giants and win by a score of 617 to 0.
Andy Dalton is still average.