Where Do They Go From Here; New England Patriots

After our divisional season review podcasts, we are now looking to the future and asking where each franchise goes from here. We put ourselves in the chair of being GM or the owner and going over what moves we would make in order to win a Superbowl, make the playoffs or just regain some pride…

 

Today we take a look a the Superbowl champions, the team that most people love to hate, the New England Patriots.

 

How Did Last Season Go?

Well any time you win a superbowl, it can’t be bad can it? As a Chargers fan I cannot relate anyway but moving swiftly on…

The regular season was kind of hit and miss in the weirdest ways, the Patriots finished 11-5, obviously, it’s pretty easy to rack up double digit wins, which they now have done for ten straight years, when your division contains the Bills, the Jets and the Dolphins… Even if you lose in Miami every year but again, I digress…

The Pats didn’t really ever feel like they were in top gear and flying, yet here we are because when it hits January, they’re a completely different animal. Although, again it’s odd that I’m sat here writing about a Superbowl winning team but they only had 2 Pro Bowl nods and 2 All-Pro selections… neither of whom were Tom Brady.

Opening up the season 1-2 over the first 3 weeks, certainly plays up to this theory. With losses coming in a rematch of the 2017 AFC Championship game against the Jags and a weird loss to Matt Patricia’s Lions. Six straight victories followed but they included close calls against the Chiefs and the Bears as well as a shootout win against the Colts at Gillette Stadium. The key here is that the Patriots are nye on invincible at Gillette but pretty vulnerable away from their home comforts, as a loss in Tennessee showed… Or are they just vulnerable against coaches who are recent graduates from the Belichick tree?

Weird losses or not, the Pats went into their bye week 7-3 and realistically only a couple of wins away from another East title. Which they duly obtained and even had a laugh putting Rob Gronkowski at safety and allowing the Miami Miracle… But less said about that, the better, isn’t that right Pats fans?

On to January and the iffy Patriots now transform into the well oiled playoff machine that they are and easily dispatched the Chargers and even had enough juice to outscore the free scoring Chiefs in their own backyard before moving on to Atlanta to the biggest night of the year.

Yes, the superbowl didn’t have a bunch of points or the drama that we’ve seen in recent Superbowls but will the Pats care? No. Should they? No. Was it a proper football game? Hell. Yes.

So yeah, pretty decent after all.

 

Housekeeping

Cap space: $17m

Draft picks (12): Round 1, 32nd overall, Round 2, 56th & 64th overall, Round 3, 73rd, 97th & 101st overall, Round 4, 134th overall, Round 6, 205th overall & Round 7, 239th, 243rd, 246th & 252nd overall.

 

Outgoings

The obvious place to start is clearly with Rob Gronkowski’s retirement. Gronk has called it a career after 9 seasons in the NFL and will go down as one of the best tight ends in league history. This will leave a big hole in both the run and passing games of the Patriots offense and also a big presence in the locker room.

Another pair of big losses, are those of Malcolm Brown and Trey Flowers from the defensive line, who now reside in New Orleans and Detroit, respectively. The Patriots have also lost Danny Shelton from their defensive line rotation, although he hasn’t yet found a new home, so a return to New England isn’t completely off the cards but either way, there’s work to be done in the front seven of the defense.

Flipping over to the offensive line, the Pats have lost LaAdrian Waddle and Trent Brown but this will be offset with the fact that Isaiah Wynn will be back from injury to take over at left tackle, after missing the whole of his rookie year.

Other notable losses are corner Eric Rowe and All-Pro kick returner and gadget man, Cordarrelle Patterson .

 

Incomings

Michael Bennett has come in from the City of Brotherly love, to the city where his brother took a lot of love and enjoyed a lot of success. This helps offset some of the D line losses but I would still like the Patriots to go out and get a lineman who can play inside and out in the first of second round. Charles Omenihu out of Texas could be a target at 32, or Michigan’s Chase Winovich or Boston College’s Zach Allen at 56 or 64, would also suffice.

Bruce Ellington and Maurice Harris have joined an underwhelming wide receiver room to continue the theme of being underwhelming… I say this knowing full well that one of the receivers not named Julian Edelman will suddenly become a star this season. Again though, even if that does happen, it’s another deep position in this years draft and I can see the Pats attacking it in the mid rounds, maybe even twice. Hunter Renfrow out of Clemson just screams New England Patriots wide receiver… He’s small, white, fails the eye test and has limited physical traits but has good hands and is a grit king. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? The Pats could also be the sort of team that takes a rough diamond like Myles Boykin and polishes him up real nice.

The other real area of need is also tight end and replacing one, Robert James Gronkowski but yet again, the Patriots have landed this problem at a time when the tight ends available in the draft are both high quality and plentiful.

 

Outlook For Next Year

Well the Patriots are still going to be far and away the best team in the division, even if their roster doesn’t look great on paper and the rest of the division improves… that’s just how wide this chasm is and that just NFL lore, ok?

This means they’ll make the playoffs at a canter and in the lesser of the two conferences, there’s probably only the Chiefs, Chargers or Colts that would have a chance (or dare I say, Cleveland too?)

Well, we’ll find out about a couple of those as the AFC East is paired with the AFC North and as fellow division winners, the Patriots will face off against Kansas City at some point next year. So at least they’ll have a couple of tough games next year… And it literally could be a couple as the inter conference opponents are the NFC (L)East.

So, just like last year, canter into the playoffs and then transform into the slickest outfit in the league with two or three games before

Good luck Dolphins fans, the Patriots are going to be playing a Superbowl in your stadium next February… yay!

 

Prediction

Honestly, even though the Pats roster looks pretty below average on paper, they’re the New England Patriots, they have Tom Brady as their quarterback and Bill Belichick as their head coach and they’re probably going to win 12 games. Quite honestly, as unbelievable as that sounds considering their roster currently, would you really be surprised?

 

Fantasy Football

Hmm… This is where it’s a struggle. Sony Michel is probably the only real, high end fantasy player on the roster at the moment and even then it’s the old Patriots running back conundrum each week isn’t it?

Brady will be good but has never been a fantasy QB I’ve been overly bothered about and now Gronk isn’t around to be overdrafted in the second round, the receiving options are pretty sparse.

If the Pats draft a top tight end like Noah Fant, TJ Hockenson or Irv Smith then that could change things, ditto if they get a top wide receiver from the draft class but as things stand it’s all a mystery.

 

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