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Some Patriots Storylines I Can’t Wait For

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The 2017 NFL offseason has, from a Patriots standpoint, been one of the most memorable in my my lifetime. Not only are they coming off a Super Bowl Championship, but they actually, you know, did stuff. They signed players. They made moves. They cashed in draft capital for proven commodities. Usually the months of March through July are reserved for the rest of the NFL while September through February belongs primarily to the Patriots. This offseason, though, New England has been front and center in terms of NFL news.

As a result, it seems that at least once a week, we find ourselves subjected to one of the following storylines:

  • Are the Patriots already Super Bowl Favorites?
  • Can any team in the NFL hang with the Patriots?
  • Which team will the Patriots play in the Super Bowl?
  • Which AFC team represents the biggest threat to New England?
  • Do the Patriots have a weakness?

You get the idea. Most of the sports media world has already more or less crowned the Pats 2017 World Champions, the Patriots are already favored in every single game next year, and Tom Brady is already the odds-on favorite to be the league MVP next year. Never mind about the season this year, let’s just hand the Patriots Ring #6 and move on to 2018.

There are a few reasons as to why these are the storylines that have been dominating the news cycle over the past few months. First and foremost, there is a degree of truth there. The Patriots have added a lot of talent to all elements of their roster, and in an industry fueled almost exclusively by guesswork, somebody has to be projected as favorites during a time where there isn’t a whole lot to report. And of course, as we all know all too well, any article involving the Patriots get those precious clicks and pageviews, and they don’t require all that much effort to write. But I think it goes deeper than that, to be honest. I think there’s more here than simply reporting that New England has had a productive offseason. What these storylines do, in my opinion, is brilliantly set up a few in-season narratives that will pay off down the line. New England going 12-4, getting a first round bye, and hosting at least one playoff game isn’t overly interesting to anybody; as Patriots fans we expect it, and the rest of the world has more or less resigned themselves to it. There aren’t any sexy headlines in those kinds of predictions. So instead, what we’re seeing is the Patriots’ bar, already set obscenely high, being raised to borderline impossible levels so as to lay the groundwork for some juicy storylines when the inevitability of the NFL takes place and actual reality occurs. The media is doing an excellent job of digging a hole from which they will be able to mine a tremendous amount of material as the 2017 campaign gets underway. As the mainstream media continues to crumble and the layoffs continue to pile up, it’s stay afloat in any way possible, and the Patriots have always represented a well-stocked life raft to many a reporter doing anything and everything possible to stay relevant (hi Rob Parker). Given how things have been going for New England so far this year, we can all expect a whole lot more of that.

So here are a few storylines that we’re all but guaranteed to see this coming season that would be annoying, pedantic, and shallow if it wasn’t so obvious what was going on here. So rather than get irritated by them, let’s all just smile, acknowledge what’s going on here, and try to enjoy some football.

When the Patriots lose. Anybody who thinks that New England is going to go 16-0 in the regular season can go pound sand. This team isn’t going undefeated this year, plain and simple. Heck, I don’t even want the Patriots to run the table; been there, done that, never want to experience it again. That said, there are undoubtedly those who are going to view anything less than perfection as some kind of fatal flaw in the the system, and it’s going to be glorious. “How could they not win that game, what a joke” is going to be a popular line in a fair number of circles. A regular season loss, an absolute guarantee in all but two seasons in the entire history of the NFL, will now represent a large, potentially fatal chink in the armor. And not only that...

When the Patriots don’t win by enough/the right way. This has been happening for years now, but with the expectations surrounding the 2017 season, I expect this one to get a lot of mileage over the next few months. It’s no longer acceptable for the Patriots to simply win games; they have to win a certain way, by a certain number of points, and without flaw whatsoever. So when the Patriots end up barely squeaking out a win at home against a team they are projected to manhandle, which tends to occur all the time all across the league because, you know, that’s kind of how football works, I’m looking forward to some form of “with this roster, it’s an absolute embarrassment that the game was as close as it was. New England needs to figure out what’s wrong before Belichick loses that locker room.” The phrase “a win is a win” only applies to 31 teams in this league, not 32; the Patriots need to win in a way that puts aside any notion of doubts or weakness. And when they don’t do that for 60 full minutes every week from September to December, get ready for a storm of negativity. Can’t wait.

If the Patriots don’t win the Super Bowl. Repeating as Super Bowl champs is a borderline impossible task; no team has done it since the ‘03-’04 Patriots for a reason. With all sports, but especially with football, winning it all requires the perfect balance of talent, health, and good old fashioned luck, and unfortunately the only thing anyone has any real control over is that first one. And while New England should absolutely be in the conversation in terms of strong postseason contenders, the reality is that a lot can happen between now and then, nothing is guaranteed, and if the ball bounces the wrong way or this team has an off game, that’s going to be all she wrote. It’s part of what makes football, and sports in general, so great. However, that certainly won’t stop the talking heads and the Twitter eggs to paint the 2017 season, if it doesn’t end with another Lombardi, as Bill Belichick’s biggest failure as a coach, GM, and human being. Here he was, building to win now, completely foregoing the future and mortgaging everything he has, including his boat and the lives of his children, on this singular season, and the Patriots didn’t get it done. Oh how far we’ve come; it wasn’t that long ago that losing in the Wild Card Round would have been a dream come true as a Pats fan and the Boston media would be celebrating how far the team came in a short time. Those days are long gone and that’s just fine with me.

When Tom Brady has a bad game. Tommy B is human. He plays poorly. He has bad games. It has been happening since September of 2001, and with Tebow’s good graces it will keep happening until February of 2027. He’s going to have a dud or two in there this year as well. Which, of course, will represent Father Time finally starting to catch up to Brady and that “Brady’s window is closing” article that has been circulating around the internet for the past decade or so finally has some legs. Now that he’ll be the big four-oh, look for his age to get way more attention than it ever has before and represent the main reason behind an inaccurate throw or a poor decision. Because one thing that we’ve never seen from Brady at any age was a edge defender in his face as he stepped back and threw hastily off his back foot right into the hands of a waiting safety in a bad combination of poor decision making and sloppy execution. Nope, that’s only new to this year, and the only reason it happens is because of age.