“Been There, Done That”: Death, Taxes and The New England Patriots. The 2016 New England Patriots Season Preview

By Will Stevenson

Last year’s record: 12-4

Key Returns: Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, Julian Edelman, Dion Lewis and Rob Gronkowski.

Key Loss: Chandler Jones.

2016 Season Prediction: 12-4, 1st place in the AFC East.

Every offseason the same things are said and same questions are asked about the Patriots:

1. Why won’t they sign a big-time cornerback?

2. Why won’t they sign a big-time receiver?

3. They signed who at defensive tackle?

4. I don’t know who they drafted at linebacker, but he’s probably good.

5. Tom Brady is in decline.

6. Who are these no-name running backs?

For the Patriots last year, it was the usual constant: Tom Brady throwing to people you don’t know. Rob Gronkowski is a monster. Running backs you’ve never heard of are making noise. No-name defensive players are making plays and injuries to good players you didn’t really know. After another AFC East championship (coupled with the AFC Championship game loss to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Denver Broncos), the 2016 season brings some uncertainty for the New England Patriots.

Hey guys, my name is Jimmy!

Tom Brady is now suspended for the first four games of the season and backup Jimmy Garoppolo is now the starting quarterback until Week 5, maybe. We have seen this movie before in which Tom Brady has gone down and the backup quarterback had to perform. The Patriots went 11-5 in 2009 but they missed the playoffs (and the division title) as Matt Cassel went on to make money with the Kansas City Chiefs. The Patriots hope to stay consistent with Garoppolo at quarterback until Brady returns. The Patriots have perfected the short passing game over the years and with the receiving corps they have, Garoppolo will be in perfect position to run this offense. More than putting points on the board, Garoppolo needs to be accurate on throws and move the chains. With the weapons around him, the Patriots should be able to weather the storm until Brady’s return. With the New York Jets, Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins all making improvements this off-season, the Patriots will once again face a division that is tired of seeing them win every single year. Can they do anything about it?

See Gronk Spike

For 2016, the Patriots fan base is hoping for a receiving core that is healthy. Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski have all been sidelined by injuries the past few seasons, so fans are hoping 2016 brings a bid of health to them all. The Patriots signed Martellus Bennett this offseason, adding to their love of the two-tight end formations for their passing, running and play action. Rob Gronkowski is healthy for the start of training camp and will be a welcomed security blanket for Garoppolo as he makes his way as the quarterback until Brady’s suspension is over. Julian Edelman will still be playing the Wes Welker-type role as he runs every route from every position possible. Fans are hoping Danny Amendola can stay healthy and consistent as the back-end of the receiving corp is young and has a lot of no-names.

Running back By Committee

Ever since Curtis Martin, (yes, I went there) the Patriots have been able to dig up gems from the running back graveplots while continuing to have an effective running game by Patriots standards. Dion Lewis was having a career year until he was injured in Week 9 of last year and is expected to rebound to add explosiveness to the Patriots backfield. LeGarrette Blount, James White, Donald Brown and Brandon Bolden round out the backfield which usually uses all of their backs for running while also contributing to the short passing game as receivers out of the backfield.

Defensive Front Seven By Committee

One can assume the Patriots defense will be filled injuries, but some way they will just plug in the next guy and continue to make plays. Rob Ninkovich has been a mainstay for the defensive line for the past few years. Every year it seems the Patriots either release or trade away a talented defensive player. This off-season was no exception when they traded Chandler Jones to the Arizona Cardinals.  With Jabaal Sheard, Jamie Collins and Donta’ Hightower heading the front seven, the Patriots are sure to have a consistent unit that will make it easier for Garoppolo and the offense.

Man Up!

After the departure of Darrelle Revis last offseason, Malcolm Butler has owned his place as a top-tier cornerback in this league. With Logan Ryan (has only missed 8 tackles in 178 attempts: courtesy of Pro Football Focus) on the other end, the Patriots will be playing more man coverage this year. Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung round out the safety positions making this Patriots secondary something to be feared in the AFC.

Below is the 2016 schedule for the New England Patriots along with a few predictions of my own.

Week Date Opponent Time (ET) Prediction
1 Sun, Sep 11
  • @
  • Ariz.
8:30 PM NBC Loss
2 Sun, Sep 18
  • vs
  • Mia
1:00 PM CBS Win
3 Thu, Sep 22
  • vs
  • Hou
8:25 PM CBS Loss
4 Sun, Oct 2 1:00 PM CBS Win
5 Sun, Oct 9 1:00 PM CBS Win
6 Sun, Oct 16 1:00 PM CBS Win
7 Sun, Oct 23 4:25 PM CBS Win
8 Sun, Oct 30 1:00 PM CBS Loss
10 Sun, Nov 13 8:30 PM NBC Win
11 Sun, Nov 20
  • @
  • SF
4:25 PM CBS Win
12 Sun, Nov 27
  • @
  • NYJ
8:30 PM NBC Win
13 Sun, Dec 4
  • vs
  • LA
1:00 PM FOX Win
14 Mon, Dec 12 8:30 PM ESPN/WatchESPN Win
15 Sun, Dec 18 4:25 PM CBS Win
16 Sat, Dec 24 1:00 PM CBS Win
17 Sun, Jan 1 1:00 PM CBS Loss

Season Preview Review?

Every year the Bills, Dolphins and Jets plan all off-season on how to take the Patriots down from their reign at the top of the AFC East, and every year they fail, miserably. Coaches and front office regimes have fallen and started over time and time again at the hands of the Patriots. With Tom Brady out for the first four games, it is up to the system of the Patriots to spread their wings and push forward while Brady is away. The Patriots fans and players aren’t worried at all, they’ve been there and done that.

Last Note

For the 2016 season, the fans are looking forward to another 12-4, 13-3, 14-2 season with a deep run in the playoffs and hopefully holding the Lombardi trophy at season’s end. With Tom Brady’s four game suspension, there’s an intrigue in who is Jimmy Garoppolo. What can he do? What if he sets the NFL on fire? Tom Brady took Drew Bledsoe’s job once upon a time. Garoppolo has one job and one job only: Don’t mess it up! With these four games, he is trying out for 31 other teams that may want to trade for him during the season, or next offseason. Matt Cassel made his money in one season with the Patriots. With solid play in Brady’s absence, Jimmy Garoppolo could be the next Matt Flynn or Brock Osweiler to cash in.

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Kansas City born and bred, covering KU sports, New York Jets, Los Angeles Lakers, Kansas City Royals, New York Yankees and everything in between. Check me and my team out on SPORTS Elite. Email me at brianjones8204@aol.com

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