The "Power Core" Pre-Season Power Rankings #6
Somewhere in the first quarter of the season, the New England Patriots began to believe. They believed so much that they shut their ears to every criticism of the team. From Terry Glenn's tribulations, to Drew Bledsoe's pierced lung, the Patriots continued like a well oiled machine to play consistent if not "vanilla" football. All this got the Patriots was a Super Bowl victory and the ire of fans from Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Oakland.
#6 New England Patriots (11 - 5) First in the AFC East/S.B. Champions
The Patriots didn't make many personnel moves, but sometimes it's the quality not quantity. They resigned Antowian Smith and traded Drew Bledsoe. A few years ago, that sentence might have meant another year of rebuilding and retooling, but not so anymore. Tom Brady returns to star in a sequel, to "A Star Is Born," but word to the wise: Only one sequel has outshone it's predecessor and that was "The Empire Strikes Back."
The Good: Brady won't kill you. That's probably the best understatement, but it's true. He won't "win" many games per se, but he'll get to the position to win. He's not Donovan McNabb in the least and has moments of "young quarterback syndrome." It will be interesting to see how he reacts when every defense guns for him this year. Antowain Smith needs to have as much success on the ground as he did last year. That may also be difficult to top. The one true threat on offense will continue to be Troy Brown who will on get better after his breakout year…if he can survive the imminent double teams. Bill Belichick should continue to out-coach 98% of the coaches he encounters and that will include Cowher on Monday Night.
The Bad: Being the hunted this year may cost the Patriots a few games. The defense I still think is the weak link. They play well, but they're not flashy. That keeps the game in hand, but unless the offense cooks, they might fall into the "Baltimore Syndrome." Another thing to watch is the locker room antics. This team stayed remarkably unified during the good times of last season. How many volatile relationships were put aside because of the moment? We'll see.
The Ugly: Foxboro Stadium got a bigger send off then Three Rivers did. Why? Can someone on Earth explain this ugly travesty?
Synopsis: Being the Super Bowl champs, maybe I should have had them higher. But, that Ricky Williams guy in Miami might be the difference in the AFC East this year. The Patriots won't go down without a fight, but they'll go down in the playoffs. 10 – 11 wins.