Are the Patriots Falling Apart?
In a time where the Patriots number one receiver is suspended for the first 4 games, their quarterback isn't at "voluntary" offseason workouts, and their star tight-end is more focused on a horse than on football; it's easy to assume the Patriots aren't in good shape. Are the Patriots falling apart? My one word answer would be no. It seems like in every year there is drama in New England. While people will say the Patriots nucleus included Gronk, Edelman, Amendola, Patricia, and McDaniels; the real nucleus is Robert Kraft, Tom Brady, and Bill Belichick. Every year we see one team in the AFC East who "will be able to dethrone the Patriots", it sounds like we've been saying that for the past 9 years, but no team has done it. This year the AFC East consists with a team who is led by a quarterback coming off a torn ACL, a quarterback who was the back-up to Andy Dalton, and a quarterback who has never played a full-16 game season in his 15-year career. No disrespect, but I just can't see AJ McCaron or Ryan Tannehill or Josh McCown dethroning Tom Brady.
While I don't see a team beating the Patriots in their division, there may be some teams in the AFC East that can defeat the Patriots. I think there are 5 teams in the AFC that can outplay New England: The Steelers, Texans, Jaguars, Chargers, and Chiefs. Let's be real, the Steelers were defeated by the refs and themselves. The Jesse James play was a terrible call by the refs, but the game was not over after that. The Steelers shot themselves in the foot, if Ben Roethlisberger threw the ball away, they would have gone to over time. Neither of these teams got better this offseason, but the Steelers are too talented to not be in the discussion. I really like the Texans chances this year, the Patriots tend to struggle against mobile quarterbacks, Colin Kaepernick and Cam Newton, and there is great energy in Houston. Watson is a great player and they have a healthy JJ Watt, Tyrann Mathieu, and Jadeveon Clowney. The Texans could be the team. Staying in the division, I also think the Jaguars are a viable threat to New England. They were very close to beating them in the playoffs and got much better in the offseason. If Blake Bortles gets better in the offseason, the Jaguars will be in good shape. Then finally, I have two sleeper teams; the Chargers and the Chiefs. This season the Chiefs are boom or bust. It all depends on Patrick Mahomes and if he's a boom, they can definitely beat the Patriots. The Chargers don't play the Patriots this year, but if they see them in the playoffs; they have a good chance. Rivers is really good in the playoffs and with one of the best defensive lines Brady will be scared. So the 5 teams in the AFC East that I see defeating the Patriots are the Steelers, Texans, Jaguars, Chargers, and Chiefs.
No team is ever perfect, but the Patriots are pretty darn close. I think the Patriots will be back in the playoffs this year, and despite the distractions; they will be very good. To the Patriots, all this drama is just noise. If I have learned anything from watching football, it is to never doubt the Patriots.