The 2016-17 New England Patriots’ season begins tonight.
I’m pumped, you’re pumped. It’s awesome.
Here are ten predictions I have for the year.
Jimmy Garoppolo Goes 3-1
Each year since 2002, Tom Brady has started every opening game for the Patriots. That’s not happening this year. He’s suspended and Jimmy Garoppolo will be starting the first four games.
All summer long, Garoppolo has been this team’s biggest question. He’s never started a game and has played sparingly otherwise. Now he’s leading a team with real Super Bowl hopes for a quarter of the season.
However I’m still confident he’ll play well.
We all know how draft picks are treated in New England. Whether it’s a first-rounder or a seventh-rounder, a pick isn’t wasted. So when they took Garoppolo with a fourth-rounder in 2014, it was obvious Belichick saw something in him. We’re three years removed from that, Jimmy G. is a much better quarterback now than he was then.
That’s why I think he’ll play well. Sitting behind Tom Brady has give him an opportunity to develop at a slow pace and learn from the greatest to ever do it. It’s brought him from a rookie from Eastern Illinois to a guy who’s ready to start in the NFL.
And I think he’s winning three of the games he starts. I don’t know where his one loss is coming, but it will.
Tonight’s game in Arizona seems like a likely culprit to deliver that “L”. The Pats are without Gronk, Nate Solder, and Jonathan Cooper and they’re playing a top-five team. Obviously an ominous situation. I’m not predicting a loss tonight, because I think Garoppolo can get it done. I’m just saying this game is the most likely to be lost.
If it doesn’t happen, great. I still think a loss is in the cards. But 3-1 obviously isn’t bad & it’ll put the Pats in a great spot for when Tom Brady returns.
Offensive Line Struggles
You read that and agreed.
This offensive line scares the hell out of me. Even before Solder and Cooper went down with injuries.
I just don’t think they’re very good.
They sucked in the AFC Championship Game and there’s really been no change since then.
Dante Scarnecchia is back. That will help. But if this group remains the same, it could be a long year for the o-line.
- Gronk’s Injury/Impact Of Martellus Bennett
We all know Gronk’s hurt. But how hurt is he?
I obviously can’t be sure. I’m not a team insider.
However, I think this is cautious more so than necessary. Like I said a couple of days ago, I think keeping Gronk out of the first game, and however many more he sits out, is to keep him healthy for Tom Brady.
Having him out there with Jimmy Garoppolo would certainly help, but what would you rather have: a healthy Gronk with Brady or no Gronk because he got hurt playing with Garoppolo?
Yeah, you picked the former.
And it’s not as if Garoppolo doesn’t have a tight end to work with.
Throughout the preseason, the connection between he and Martellus Bennett was apparent. Expect it to be the same during the first four games.
Jimmy G. and Bennett will benefit from each other substantially. Jimmy has his favorite target & Bennett can further familiarize himself with the Pats’ offense, which will be huge for the team.
Last season, the two-headed monster at TE was constructed. There was a problem though. Scott Chandler sucked. He couldn’t catch a ball to save himself.
Luckily, I expect Martellus Bennett to be the exact opposite.
He’s going to become a legitimate weapon in this offense. When he’s alone, or alongside A.J. Derby, he’ll accel, and when he’s out there with Gronk, look out. This is a real two-headed monster.
Top 10 Defense
In 2015, the Patriots defense ranked in the top ten in YDS/G, RUSH YDS/G, PTS, and PTS/G.
That’s going to happen again.
With the additions of Chris Long, Shea McLellin, Barkevious Mingo and Eric Rowe, the defense has obviously gotten better. Each of them have a lot to prove, but luckily, guys in their situations who come to New England always seem to get it together. They turn things around and have good seasons. Expect these four to do just that.
Also, look for some young guys to step it up.
All summer long I read about how ready Malcolm Brown was to become a team leader and an elite defensive tackle. I’m buying the hype. This first rounder seems ready to make that leap. Everything I’ve seen out of him, in camp, in the preseason, has been great. He reminds me so much of Vince Wilfork and it seems like he’s ready to step into the role left by the veteran.
Trey Flowers is ready too. This guy was an animal in the preseason. Flowers’ speed and pass-rush ability is undeniable. He gets after the quarterback and puts them on the ground. That’ll continue into real games, and I couldn’t be more excited.
Now, I’m not saying the Pats are going to have a top-five defense, they could, but I’m not predicting that. I’m simply saying that this defense is good and will maintain the top-ten status they’ve had for the past two years.
Jamie Collins & Dont’a Hightower Have Monster Years
If my prediction for a top-ten defense is going to come true, Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower will lead the charge.
Besides Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis Sr. in Carolina, Collins and Hightower are the best middle linebacker combo in the NFL. And at the beginning of last year, they looked like they might be able to rival them.
But injuries put a stop to that.
In 2015, Collins and Hightower only played twelve games each. They put up similar stats, both recording 61 tackles and 3+ sacks. Obviously not anything to write home about, but they didn’t play full seasons and weren’t 100% when they were out there.
That’s changing this year. I expect Collins and Hightower to have career years.
This is Collins’ fourth year in the league. After being named to his first Pro Bowl last year, I think he can make a run at DPOY. With guys like J.J. Watt, Khalil Mack, and Kuechly in the league, that’ll be a tall task, but it’s most definitely possible.
And 2016 is Hightower’s year. He was just named captain, given the most important locker in the lockeroom and has joined the elite fraternity of Pats linebackers. Whether or not he has the impact of Bruschi, McGinest, Vrabel, or Mayo, is to be seen. But I think it’s a pretty safe bet that he’ll rise to the challenge. He’s been the anchor of the linebacking corps for 2+ years now and he will continue to accel in that role.
Color Rush Uniforms
The Patriots haven’t worn alternate uniforms since 2012. This season, though, they’re slotted to participate in a Color Rush game.
We all know how bad Color Rush was last year. From the horrible reds and greens from the Bills and Jets, to the terrible golds and powder blues from the Jaguars and Titans, it was all bad.
Now the Patriots are subject to that.
On September 22nd, they’ll play the Texans in this Color Rush game. Based on leaked information, Houston will be wearing powder blue and the Pats will be wearing red.
This is actually good news. Both teams’ colors are directly drawn from their uniforms of the past. If I had to, I’d predict that in a couple of weeks, we’ll be seeing the powder blues of the Houston Oilers and the red Pat Patriots uniforms on the field at Gillette.
Brady Comes Back With Vengeance
I’m really sorry about that Color Rush prediction. I know you don’t care about those uniforms. Probably because Tom Brady won’t be wearing them, right? Right.
And why won’t he be wearing them? Oh yeah, because he’s serving a four game suspension.
Why’s he suspended? Because Goodell wanted him to be.
I feel bad for the twelve teams that have to play Brady when comes back. It’s not their fault he was suspended, but he’s gonna be PISSED and he’s going to take it out on them. They’re standing between him and his fifth ring. Guess what? He REALLY wants that fifth ring.
Once this dude comes back, look out. He’s 39 but he’s still the best quarterback in the league and he’s going to tear it apart. After Week 5, Tom Brady is going to put up MVP-like numbers. He’s not going to win the award but when voters really think about it, they’ll know he deserves it. It won’t matter, they’ll say he can’t win because he missed four games, but that’s okay, he’s used to being slighted by anyone outside of New England.
Pats Go 13-3
So I said Garoppolo is going 3-1, but I’m saying the Pats are going 13-3.
That means they’re losing two games with Tom Brady at the helm. It hurts to say that, but it happens every year. Each season, they always lose one or two tough games and one or two tough games. No matter how angry Brady is, and no matter how much this team wants to win a championship, it’s hard to argue with history.
Luckily, this history is pretty damn good. Some teams are happy with a 10-6 record, but not us. Even though 13-3 is phenomenal, I know that when the losses happen, it’ll be the end of the world in New England.
AFC East Champions
This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but the Pats are winning the AFC East.
Brady’s missing four games, but that doesn’t really matter. It’s just going to happen. I said they’re going 13-3 and that’s going to be substantially better than the other teams in the division. Miami’s trash, Buffalo is decent but come on, Sexy Rexy isn’t topping the Pats. If one team can top them though, it’ll be the Jets, but their chances are slim. Ryan Fitzpatrick always has one good year for a team, lays an egg the next, and guess what, it’s his second year in New York. They’re not winning the East.
(Also check out Phillip Tor’s preview of the division. Awesome piece.)
Super Bowl LI Champions
Tell me I’m talking with my heart, tell me I’m a homer. I’ll tell you you’re right. I am doing both of those things. But it’s for good reason. The Patriots are winning Super Bowl 51.
As of September 5th, they’ve got the best odds in the NFL (6-1) and that’s with Brady missing four games. Can you imagine what they’d be if he was playing a whole season?
Last year would have been sweet. The Revenge Tour would have been complete. But the Revenge Tour 2.0 is going to be so much sweeter.
When Tom Brady holds that Lombardi Trophy up in Houston, it’ll be confirmation. Confirmation that he is, undeniably, the G.O.A.T. and confirmation that the league can’t stop him or the Patriots.
I can already imagine the angry tears streaming down Goodell’s face as he has to hand that trophy over, the trophy he worked so hard for Brady not to get. It’s going to be glorious.