A user from the subreddit /r/NFL posed a fun off-season question to the masses, and I want to hear your thoughts:
If you could join the rosters of the Patriots and a rival, which combination would yield the best results?
The most well-received response in the thread notes that a Patriots-Jets team would provide the most unstoppable offense in the league and would help patch up some deficiencies on the Patriots.
New England has questionable depth at wide receiver and the Jets could bring both Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. It’s also noteworthy that the Jets have one of the best defensive lines in the entire league and could bring back former Patriots Super Bowl XLIX championship cornerback Darrelle Revis.
I wanted to see which rival would bring the best goods, so I sifted through the rosters on the Patriots historical nemeses under head coach Bill Belichick: the Jets, Dolphins, Bills, Colts, Ravens, Steelers, and Broncos.
I was surprised at which team offered the best result.
The Colts lack top-end talent, but they could bring a few bodies to the table. Indianapolis could bring receiver threats like T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief, which would enhance the offense, and they would solidify the left side of the line with Anthony Castonzo and Jack Mewhort. On the defensive side, they would bring cornerback Vontae Davis and not much else.
There are a lot of old players on the roster (Robert Mathis, Trent Cole, Mike Adams, Frank Gore) that I don’t think would be the best additions overall.
Miami could bring a few blue chip players in the fold with safety Reshad Jones, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, edge rusher Mario Williams, and offensive linemen Branden Albert and Mike Pouncey. Slot receiver Jarvis Landry would be an immediate starter, and there are some players that could compete for time like cornerback Byron Maxwell and tight end Jordan Cameron.
The Dolphins rank lower because they can only improve a couple positions, while other teams can improve the roster at all positions.
I was surprised to rank Pittsburgh towards the bottom, but hear me out: like the Dolphins, the Steelers add elite players at running back (Le’Veon Bell) and wide receiver (Antonio Brown), as well as improve the offensive like with David DeCastro and Maurkice Pouncey. There’s no question that adding the Steelers would seriously improve the offense.
But what about the defense? Linebacker Ryan Shazier wouldn’t beat out Dont’a Hightower or Jamie Collins. Cameron Heyward would add talent to the defensive line. That’s kind of it.
The Patriots offense could go from elite to supermegaelite, but we’ve all seen how good defensive play in the postseason brings home the championships. This would be a fun combination in Madden. I don’t like it as much in actuality.
Like the Colts, Baltimore comes with some aging contributors. Steve Smith Sr. would play at wide receiver, Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil would help on the edge, and Eric Weddle would play some safety. Guard Marshal Yanda is arguably the best at his position in the NFL and would solidify the offensive line and help the overall offense as a whole.
While the Ravens don’t have a top-of-the-line stud on the roster like Bell or Brown (Yanda excluded), they offer some upgrades across the board. Cornerback Jimmy Smith would likely start opposite Malcolm Butler. Running back Justin Forsett would probably bump off LeGarrette Blount. The aforementioned Smith, Suggs, and Weddle would all upgrade the #2 spot at each position.
And when it comes to building a championship roster, depth matters and the Ravens bring a lot.
The idea of Marshall and Decker and Matt Forte in an offense with Tom Brady and Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett is tantalizing. Left tackle Ryan Clady and center Nick Mangold would help the offensive line. I don’t see a single Patriots defensive tackle breaking the starting line-up with Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson, and Leonard Williams on the roster. Oh, and that Revis character is a good starting cornerback.
Combining this roster with the Patriots would be fantastic and the defense would improve alongside the offense. But there are still better combinations.
Wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders would make the Patriots offense even more unstoppable than adding Marshall and Decker. While Denver’s offensive line wasn’t good last season, they improved as the season wore on and left tackle Russell Okung would certainly help.
But it’s the volume of talent on defense that really seals the deal and puts the Broncos ahead of the Jets. Derek Wolfe would be great on the defensive line, but it’s reigning Super Bowl MVP Von Miller that tips the scales. Demarcus Ware brings additional value on the edge, as does Brandon Marshall at linebacker.
It’s the cornerback position that sells the Broncos, with Chris Harris and Aqib Talib forming one of the best tandems in the entire NFL. They could join with Malcolm Butler and become invincible, especially playing behind a defensive front six that contains Wolfe, Malcom Brown, Miller, Jabaal Sheard, Hightower, and Collins.
But this was my big surprise and let me explain:
LeSean McCoy would be the single best running back addition from the rivals. While all of these rivals have great wide receivers, Sammy Watkins is extremely talented and would fit in perfectly with the Patriots offense.
Picture McCoy, Watkins, Edelman, Gronkowski, and Bennett. You’re not going to have more than five skills players on the field and this quintet is second only to the Steelers with Bell and Brown taking starting positions- although I’d listen to arguments for Lewis, Sanders, Edelman, Thomas, and Gronkowski.
But then we look at the offensive line and realize that no rival adds more talent to the positional group than Buffalo. Left tackle Cordy Glenn, left guard Richie Incognito, and center Eric Wood would all be immediate starters and would give the Patriots the best possible offensive line. This offensive line seals the Bills as the ideal offensive combination.
And the defense isn’t shabby, either. Defensive tackle Marcel Dareus is as good as any player you can add on the line and Jerry Hughes would join the pass rush rotation. Factor in rising star cornerback Ronald Darby and pretty good cornerback Stephon Gilmore and you have a great secondary, too.
I’d listen to people argue for either the Broncos and the Jets, but I think the Bills would offer the best offensive line combination of all the rivals, and enough talent at other positions to tip the scale.
What do you think?