Over the next several weeks, I am going to be doing a preview of each NFL team going into the 2017 season. It will include the strengths and weaknesses of each team, players to look out for and what to expect from that team during the upcoming season. Let’s start in the AFC and the AFC East with the New England Patriots.
The New England Patriots have a ton of strengths. It doesn’t take rocket science to know Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are the oil that gives this Patriots engine life. For a team coming off of a Super Bowl win, you would almost expect to see signs of a drop off heading into an upcoming season. That is far from the truth when it comes to the Patriots. Although they lost players like Logan Ryan, LaGarrette Blount, and Chris Long who all contributed to the championship last season, the Patriots found a way to bring in more help for the Brady Bunch. Belichick went out and traded for wide receiver Brandin Cooks, signed cornerback Stephon Gillmore, traded for defensive end Koney Ealy, signed running back Mike Gillislee and traded for tight end Dwayne Allen. All of those players will be immediate impact guys and will help give Tom Brady the necessary ammunition to make yet another Super Bowl run. The Patriots offense is going to be just as explosive as its been and their defense will be even better.
It’s almost impossible to point out any weakness on the Patriots. You could argue them losing some of the guys they did in free agency would hurt them, but they found a way to replenish their roster and bring in high caliber talent. The Patriots can gash opposing teams in so many ways and on paper, this team really has no glaring weakness. They are going to make life very difficult for teams in the AFC.
Players To Look Out For:
The cliche way to go about this would be to note Brady and his go-to-target Rob Gronkowski. If Gronk stays healthy, which has been a problem (even though the Patriots can win without him) the offense will be unstoppable. One guy I’m really eyeing up on that Patriot offense is Brandin Cooks. It has been a long time since the Pats have had a legitimate downfield burner and Cooks gives them that. Defenses will have to check on him which opens up the middle of the field for Gronk, Dwayne Allen and Julian Edelman. Cooks will put up huge numbers given the offense he’s in, and his supporting cast will also feast given how defenses will have to pay attention to him. Oh and the plethora of running backs who are fantastic pass catchers as well like Dion Lewis and James White. Sheesh. On defense, I think Eric Rowe, a cornerback, could have a monster season. He played very well for the Patriots last year when he was sent via trade from the Eagles. Figures. Belichick inserted Rowe into the lineup and he made a great impact. Rowe could be a fantastic nickel/slot corner opposite Gillmore and Malcolm Butler making it almost impossible to want to throw against the Patriots.
The Bottom Line:
The Patriots will always contend for a championship as long as Bill Belichick is making roster decisions, and it just helps he has a Hall of Famer at Quarterback. The AFC will be a lot better in 2017, but in theory, no one really has enough to slow down New England. Weapons galore on offense, and high impact players on defense immediately make the Pats a favorite to repeat in 2017. They already are my Super Bowl 52 favorite.
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