Jon Scott: The Patriots played better than you would have thought last season. Tom Brady had a phenomenal year, and the team just rode that to the playoffs. There were gaping issues with the team defense, but Brady and the offense were able to overcome those inadequacies. I had the team as a 11- or 12-win team at best. Two games fell into their lap because of solid game management by the coaching staff and Brady. Until either of those things change, I'd expect New England to benefit from a similar set of circumstances this year. With an improved (supposedly) defensive personnel group, I'd be hard-pressed not to make them one of the AFC favorites.
Scott: Haynesworth really hasn't had a chance to have an impact on the defense yet. There are concerns about his conditioning and whether he can hold up over a season. The organization isn't about to wait for him if he can't get going, so I'd expect to see him make an impression early. As for Ochocinco, he has to overcome the expectations of Patriots Nation to become the next Randy Moss. That's not going to happen. Ocho is a talented player, but you could see teams find a way to cover him without having to resort to using a top 5 corner. It's not that Ocho has lost a step – he prpbably has – but that he hasn't been able to get on the same page as Brady just yet. A little more practice time together and I'd expect Ocho to be one of the leading receivers in the division.
Can Tom Brady possibly come even close to the season he had in 2010 when he had 36 touchdowns against only four interceptions?
Scott: Like I noted earlier, Brady had a phenomenal season last year. The only unanimous league MVP, deservedly so. When you look at the talent around him, you'd think Brady can be that guy again. The challenge will be to deal with the changes to the roster at key spots, including RB and WR. It's possible he'll have another really good year, but the same as last season? Probably not.
Scott: After Meriweather was cut, along with James Sanders, I thought there goes the deep secondary. I also figured Butler was going to get another year to prove it. Unfortunately for all three, the team felt they needed to move on. In Meriweather's case, you could see it coming. He had lost playing time to a free agent cast-off from the Bears (Brandon McGowan) and an undrafted rookie (Sergio Brown). Butler fell into the doghouse last year when Kyle Arrington stepped up.
Do the Patriots really expect to be proficient in the running game with BenJarvus Green-Ellis and a couple of rookies?
Scott: BJGE "The Lawfirm," as they call him, is a bit of a stud runner. He had a tremendous college career and people passed him over in the draft, to New England's benefit. While he's no Larry Johnson, he's as good as Antowain Smith was, and New England won the Super Bowl with him and J. R Redmond. Kevin Faulk could/should be back for the final late-season push. Danny Woodhead is another one that people tend to forget. Woodhead and BJGE helped New England win a couple of games last year, so I'm not surprised that the team feels they can win once Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen get up to speed. Those two rookies are a lot better than people realize. We may not see too much out of them right away, but they'll turn some heads by midseason.