The New England Patriots finished up the 2015 regular season at 12-4. Winning their 7th straight AFC East title and 12th in the last 13 years.
New England would advance to the AFC Championship Game yet again. However, this time they would lose 18-20 at Denver. Ending their attempt at defending their Super Bowl title from the previous season.
The trip to the AFC title game was their 5th straight appearance. If they make it there again in 2016, it will be a new NFL record. Many Patriot’s fans will point to a 28-35 home loss to the Eagles in Week 13 as the difference in making the Super Bowl.
Had they won that game, New England would have earned the No. 1 seed and got to host Denver. Instead they tied with the Broncos at 12-4 and lost the head-to-head tiebreaker.
This year New England will go into the season knowing that Tom Brady won’t be available for the first 4 games. He’s been suspended for the deflategate deal two years ago.
Even without Brady for a quarter of the season, most believe New England is still the team to beat in the AFC. In fact, oddsmakers still have them listed with the best odds to win it all.
2016 Roster Changes
Top Draft Picks
|CB Cyrus Jones, G/OT Joe Thuney, QB Jacoby Brissett, DT Vincent Valentine, WR Malcolm Mitchell|
|RB Donald Brown, WR Chris Hogan, WR Nate Washington, TE Martellus Bennett, G Jonathan Cooper, DE Chris Long, NT Terrance Knighton, DE/LB Shea McClellin|
|WR Brandon LaFell, TE Scott Chandler, DT Dominique Easley, DE/DT Akiem Hicks, NT Sealver Siliga, DE/OLB Chandler Jones, CB Leonard Johnson|
2016 Schedule & Odds
|Week||Opponent||Spread (Est.)||Win Chance|
|Estimated Wins: 10.05|
The Patriots finished in the top half of the league in both yards gained (374.4 ypg) and scoring (29.1 ppg). Not a surprise with Brady guiding the offense.
All eyes will be on backup Jimmy Garoppolo in the first four games. He’s been learning under Brady the past two years and many believe he’s more than ready. The hope is that the Patriots can go no worse than 2-2 before Brady returns.
Expect Brady to play with a chip on his shoulder once he takes the field. He may have just turned 39, but he’s still playing like he’s in his prime.
New England probably could have got by with what they had last year on this side of the ball. However, they made two key additions, both coming at the tight end position. New England signed both Martellus Bennett and Clay Harbor.
They join arguably the best tight end in the game in Rob Gronkowski. Bennett is the better of the two and will allow the Pats to use their two tight end sets more. Something they have struggled to since Aaron Hernandez was lost.
New England also gets back running back Dion Lewis, who was lost to an ACL injury in Week 9. James White did a decent job replacing him as the 3rd-down back, but he’s not the same dynamic player. LeGarrette Blount will return as the starter and will continue to be used on running downs.
The Patriots also brought in a couple of new wide outs in free agency. They signed Chris Hogan from the Bills and veteran Nate Washington from the Texans. They join the duo of Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola.
One area the Patriots needed to get better at was the offensive line. Not a lot was added, but Belichick did get Dante Scarnecchia to come out of retirement to coach the unit. The most notable addition was Jonathan Cooper, who was acquired in the trade that sent Chandler Jones to Arizona. They also used a 3rd round pick on guard Joe Thuney.
The hope is that Scarnecchia can get Cooper to live up to the hype that got him drafted No. 7 overall in 2013. To get in the starting lineup he’ll have to beat out Shaq Mason or Tre’ Jackson. A couple of promising 4th round picks from 2015. Bryan Stork returns at center and Sebastian Vollmer and Nate Solder are back at the two tackle spots.
The Patriots will have a much different look up front on the defensive side of the ball. Outside of trading Jones, they released Dominique Easley and didn’t re-sign Akiem Hicks. Jabaal Sheard and Rob Ninkovich figure to start at the two ends spots. Though the team did add veteran Chris Long. At tackle they get back Malcom Brown and Alan Branch. Plus they added veteran Terrance Knighton and 3rd round rookie Vincent Valentine.
It might not look as strong up front as it did last year, but I wouldn’t doubt Belichick’s thinking. Either way the Patriots have two studs behind them at linebacker. Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins are two of the best in the league at their positions.
The strength of the defense is the secondary. New England has two solid corners in Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan. They also used a 2nd round pick on Alabama’s Cyrus Jones to play the nickel. At safety they have one of the best in the game in Devin McCourty. They also have Patrick Chung back at safety. He was a complete flop in Philadelphia, but has thrived once again in New England.
Regular Season Win Total
to Win the AFC East
to Win Super Bowl
Odds Courtesy of 5Dimes
Not having Tom Brady for 4 games is a big loss. However, if there’s one team that can overcome the absence of an elite signal caller it’s New England. Keep in mind they went 11-5 back in 2008 with Matt Cassel starting 15 games.
Winning on the road at Arizona without Brady will be a big challenge. However, they will likely be favored in the other three at home. A 3-1 start isn’t out of the question and that will put them in the drives seat for another division title.
New England does have to go to both Denver and Pittsburgh. They also have to host Cincinnati, Seattle and Baltimore. I don’t think it will be enough to keep them from another double-digit win season. I have the Patriots going 11-5 and eclipsing their win total of 10.5.
AFC East Finish
Win Total Prediction
Patriots 10-Year Recap