Expert NFL Handicapping: New England Patriots Chances to Repeat
The New England Patriots have got this whole winning the Super Bowl thing figured out. They have done it three times in the last five years. But now they are faced with trying to do something that they - and everyone else - has failed to do since 2005 as they seek to repeat as champions. They head into the coming season as Super Bowl favorites at BetOnline, but it is lukewarm at best - they are only at +800, with the Rams at +900, and the Chiefs and Saints at +1000. So, can the New England Patriots repeat? There are arguments to be made on both sides of that question.
They have already come as close as possible: They won last year and three years ago. In between they made it to the big game, losing to Philadelphia by eight points. So, we know that they are absolutely capable of getting back to the big game, and that's the biggest part of the battle.
The AFC East is still a mess: All three of the other teams in the division are better now than they were last year in all likelihood, but there is a lot of room for all them to be significantly better and still not be good. The division has long been a gift that keeps giving to the Patriots, and that is likely to be the case again here. The Patriots are at -350 to win their division, which makes them by far the strongest favorites in a division in the league. Rolling over the division gives the team a big head start in their battle to secure a home game at least, and hopefully a bye.
Belichick and Brady are still in town: If you are doubting those guys at this point, then you just aren't paying any attention. They may not be the most likeable guys in the league, but they sure know how to win.
Their draft was excellent: They didn't add superstar talent in bulk, but they never do - not when they are always picking late in rounds, and they value the quantity of picks over making big splashes. But they did a very good job of finding value with their picks. N'Keal Harry is a reliable receiver who could be a great fit with Brady. Corner Joejuan Williams was nice value in the second round, and defensive end Chase Winovich was a steal in the third round. Damien Harris is nice value at running back, too, and they had some decent later picks, too. They could have added as many as four or five new starters at some point this year. And they also added QB Jarrett Stidham from Auburn, which isn't an impact pick right now, but rather a long-term play with upside at a very fair price. The Patriots had the best overall draft relative to their drafting position in the league - which is not something you see often for a defending Super Bowl winner.
Brady is, maybe, not immortal: Brady is a total freak. Obviously. He breaks rules like no one else before him. And he shows no sign whatsoever of slowing down. But he will be 42 years old when this season starts. We have seen many cases of guys who look good until suddenly they don't anymore - and those have all happened at a younger age than this. Brady can't play forever - probably.
Coaching: It's May. They still don't have a defensive coordinator. They had one, but Greg Schiano, which seemed like a lousy pick in the first place, suddenly resigned a month after joining the team. It's a bit of chaos for a team that has shied away from that for as long as possible. The Patriots are the Patriots, so it's a fairly good bet that they already have a plan in place. They also don't have coaches for cornerbacks and wide receivers in place at the moment. At the very least these situations are something to keep a close eye on.
The AFC is very tough: The AFC has not been particularly strong the last couple of years, but it has certainly gotten tougher. The Chiefs should be a solid team again as they were last year. The Chargers should also be back with another solid year. Cleveland should be well improved, and Indianapolis could again be poised to take another step forward to build on their strong season last year. Teams like Houston, Baltimore and Pittsburgh aren't likely at the same level as the teams we just mentioned, but they still have playoff upside. The team has won the conference four of the last five years, but this could be the toughest group to win they have faced yet.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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