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2016 NFL Preview: Patriots predicted to win Super Bowl, “anything short would be a disappointment”

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Check out the Patriots section in the SB Nation 2016 NFL Preview guide!

We’re pushing our SB Nation 2016 NFL Preview guide today and I wanted to focus a bit on the page dedicated to the New England Patriots.

The staff responsible for compiling this guide made a few predictions for the upcoming season and the Patriots are expected to win the Super Bowl, despite the obvious warts on display during the first half of the season.

The Patriots will have to overcome a suspension to Tom Brady, a brand new offensive line, mild injuries to tight end Rob Gronkowski, slightly more serious injuries to wide receivers Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, and Malcolm Mitchell and right guard Shaq Mason, and even more serious injuries to running back Dion Lewis and right tackle Sebastian Vollmer.

And that’s just the offense.

The defensive side is flush with talent, but starting edge defenders Jabaal Sheard and Rob Ninkovich are overcoming an MCL sprain and torn triceps, respectively, and starting strongside linebacker Shea McClellin has been missing practice for an unknown injury.

This is a lot for the Patriots to overcome, but hopefully the injury bug is done with New England and the team can pull everyone together for the back stretch of the regular season for another run at a title.

A beautiful and talented writer from Pats Pulpit also answered five questions about the Patriots For the record, that writer is me. I’m shameless.

Here are the questions, with the first couple sentences of my response:

1. From a big-picture perspective, could Tom Brady missing the first four games of the season be the best scenario for the franchise just to see what Jimmy Garoppolo can do in real games?

“I don’t think losing Brady for any stretch of the season is a good thing. We saw last season just how important home-field advantage can be in the playoffs...”

2. Do the Patriots have enough reinforcements to protect themselves if Rob Gronkowski or Julian Edelman miss time?

“Well, there’s no way to protect against the loss of Rob Gronkowski. He’s the most unique offensive player in the league, and his loss is impossible to overcome. That said, the team did as much as they could by trading for Martellus Bennett...”

3. Brady was officially hit 20 times in the AFC Championship –– more than any other quarterback in the league last season. Did the Patriots do enough over the offseason to address their offensive line?

“The Patriots spent more time fixing their offensive line than any other position this offseason. They brought back retired line coach Dante Scarnecchia, signed his likely long-term replacement in Cole Popovich (no relation to the Spurs coach), traded for right guard Jonathan Cooper, drafted left guard Joe Thuney, and got left tackle Nate Solder from injured reserve. Last year’s issues were a mix of bad coaching and bad luck.”

4. How does trading Chandler Jones make the Patriots better on the field in 2016? If it doesn’t, what was Belichick’s thought process when he made that deal?

“It’s hard to say that the Patriots are “better” after losing a double-digit sack monster with as much physical talent as anyone in the league, but I’ll give it a shot. Jones’ biggest problem was his consistency. He’d take over games for a few weeks, then disappear down the stretch. Jabaal Sheard, his replacement, was even-keeled all year, even if his upside is less.”

5. How does the first month of the season go? The last month of the season? What's the final record going to be?

“The first month is going to be iffy, but I wouldn’t be shocked by a 2-2 record under Jimmy Garoppolo. I expect a loss against the Cardinals, then potentially a loss against any of the other three teams (Dolphins, Texans, Bills) that the Patriots will host at Gillette Stadium. The final four weeks should be interesting, hosting the Ravens, going to the Broncos, hosting the Jets, then going to the Dolphins.”

Scroll down to the bottom of this link to see my full answers, and give your thoughts in comments section of this post.