Scary Thoughts For Patriots Fans

The New England Patriots may be leading the AFC East division, but these things should give you pause for concern.

Things That Should Scare Patriots Fans

All Hollows Eve came and went last weekend with plenty of scary costumes worn by eager trick-or-treaters. The Patriots had a bye week, which gave us time to drink in the spirit of the holiday. A little of it rubbed off and gave us an idea - making a list of scary things. So here are things that should scare you if you're a Patriots fan.

Last week we put our pumpkins together to give you something to chew on after the holiday. The idea we've come up with actually came from one of our readers who mentioned that there are things that scare him about the Patriots.

The idea was so brilliant it knocked us right out of our costumes. So without further ado, here are things that should scare you if you're a Patriots fan.

1. Tom Brady is 32 and has one more year left on his current contract.

Why is that scary? Don't you know what happens to QBs in their 30's They typically get stuck in negotiations that are limited in scope an duration for the reason main reason that said QB will typically face a decline in production or "diminishing skills."

When Brady is up for a new deal the NFL will hopefully have a new CBA in place, but the status of that deal remains up in the air as does the cap space available to pay those players. Although Brady has said he'd like to play into his 40's that doesn't seem likely with his current head coach. In case you forgot, Bill Belichick has no problem benching formerly successful, relatively young quarterbacks because he found someone he likes better.

As head coach of the Cleveland Browns, Belichick benched Bernie Kosar at the age of 28 (1993). It was a wildly unpopular move, but the coach didn't care.

Then as a new coach in New England, Belichick benched Drew Bledsoe at the age of 29 (2001). He changed to Brady because of an injury and never looked back.

Will Belichick will keep Brady if he shows a decline in production? Possibly, but not I injuries take their toll, or someone with more upside (for less) is available.

2. Bill Belichick's Contract Could be Done by 2013 (or sooner)

That's only four years of Bill Belichick Patriots football left. If you take a car loan out now, you'll still be paying on it when Belichick is done - or could be done - in New England. If the Patriots don't win it all this year, you're looking at maybe 3 more shots at the big prize. Imagine life without Belichick… it's coming.

Scarier still is that Tom Brady will be 36 (Joe Montana's age when he was done in San Francisco).

3. Next Year The Patriots could be without Five 1st round picks

Call it crazy, or call it arrogance, poor drafting, contract mismanagement or whatever pleases you. The Patriots are staring at the possibility of being without five - yes, FIVE -- former first rounders who were part of the roster starting this year. All five contributed to the Patriots' latest Super Bowl run, and all face the very real possibility of being someplace else next year. The list includes Richard Seymour (traded), Vince Wilfork (contract year), Ben Watson (contract year), Logan Mankins (contract year), and Laurence Maroney (performance issues).

4. No First Round Pick Could Be An Issue

The Patriots have become known for trading down or out of a spot to get better (or more) picks later. The trade downs have helped the team build depth almost as much as they've eliminated costly contracts. The problem is that without first round players (see previous point), the Patriots have a deficiency of playmakers on the roster.

Bill Belichick is noted for having the final say in terms of who the team selects on Draft weekend. This year (2009) was Belichick's first in New England without longtime assistant Scott Pioli by his side. With the opportunity to get at least one first round starter (twice), New England traded down both times in the first round. Despite the increased playing time of their second round picks -- Sebastian Vollmer, Darius Butler and Patrick Chung -- New England has no starters to show for it.

With four second round choices this year, the Patriots hit on 50% of those picks (so far); Butler and Vollmer have shown the most promise. Of the other two, S Patrick Chung has played sparsely and seems destined to wait behind three other players (Brandon McGowan, Brandon Meriweather, James Sanders) while DL Ron Brace has been inactive for five out of the seven games played this year.

Compare those role players to players the Patriots could have taken had they stayed at their original drafting spot -- OL Michael Oher (Ravens) or LB Clay Matthews (Packers), and the Patriots could have had a key contributor (starter) at either spot.

Looking at the Patriots Super Bowl runs (2001, 2003-04, 2007), you see that first round picks were the base the team used to win those games. Richard Seymour (2001), Daniel Graham (2002) left in 2006, Ty Warren (2003), Vince Wilfork and Ben Watson (2004), Logan Mankins (2005), Laurence Maroney (2006), Brandon Meriweather (2007).

5. Five Games That Could Put The Division In Doubt

The Patriots are facing one of the toughest stretches in their schedule. They take on the Miami Dolphins (3-4), travel to the Indianapolis Colts (7-0), home against the New York Jets (4-4), on the road to the New Orleans Saints (7-0) and travel to Miami for a rematch against the Dolphins.

If New England drops one against the Wildcat Dolphins, and both against the Saints or the Colts, the Patriots would go 2-3, but be left at 7-5. The Jets have a bye, but play the Jaguars (3-4), Pats (5-2), Panthers (3-4), Bills (3-5) and Buccaneers (0-7). They could conceivable go 4-1 to give them an 8-5 record.

The Dolphins could also get into the mix, by splitting with the Patriots. They play the Buccaneers, at the Panthers, at Buffalo and home against New England. They too could go 4-1 and end with a record of 7-5 tying New England.

Is it probable that the Patriots will drop three games?

No, probably not. But they could stumble and the division rivals could gain enough ground to give them hope. That would make New England's path to the playoffs much more difficult.

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