Welcome to “This Is Totally Your Year,” our overly optimistic preview of the 2014-15 NFL season for all 32 teams. We’ve broken down why every team — yes, even your team (and yes, even your team, Rams fans) — will win it all this year. We’ll also give some reasons for pessimism and even estimate an actual season prediction. Next up: The New England Patriots.
When isn’t it the Patriots year? Seriously. They’re the Yankees at this point, flirting with championships after having had a great deal of success in the previous decade. Will 2014 be the year they put that elusive fourth ring on their fingers?
It’s very, very, very possible — but a few things need to happen…
Danny Amendola needs to get more targets:
In his first season as a Patriot, Amendola played 12 games and was targeted 83 times — a career low for the former Rams’ wideout. However, his average yards per reception was a career high at 11.7, a number which has steadily climbed over the course of his five-year NFL career. The takeaway? If Amendola can stay in the game and get some consistent looks, he can become super Welker and the Patriots offense will be the second best in football. They just need to throw the ball at him.
Rob Gronkowski needs to get fewer targets:
That’s right — fewer. The more snaps Gronk plays, the higher the likelihood he ends his season. The more balls he has to catch and run with, the more inevitable his departure becomes. Stop throwing him the ball so damn much. Save him. In the AFC East, the New England Patriots will ALWAYS make the playoffs. Give Gronk a rest.
Everyone can’t get hurt all at once:
Sebastian Vollmer, Gronk, Jerod Mayo, Vince Wilfork, and Tommy Kelly all went down for the count last season. With the exception of Kelly (who’s been cut, along with the injured Will Smith), the chance that so many impact starters miss the entire 2014 season remains unlikely — mostly because Belichick builds his teams with interchangeable parts like he was Eli Whitney, but also because the injury bug rarely bites two years in a row.
Stevan Ridley hangs onto the football:
In 2012, Ridley ran for 1,263 yards and looked to be yet another late-round value draft pick by the Pats. Alas, his 2013 was half as good. What happened? The fumblies — a common and ultimately correctable problem. Any and all rushing drama in Foxboro dissipates once Ridley strings together four solid games this season without coughing the ball up, and there’s no reason to think he can’t do that with his job on the line. If Ridley produces anywhere close to his 2012 levels, the Patriots will dominate the division.
They’re built to stop the Denver Broncos, which is all they need to do at this point:
By signing Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, the 2014 New England Patriots basically did what NBA teams in early 2000s did to prepare for Shaq: Throw money at defensive players who could slow him down. In preparation for another AFC Championship meeting with Peyton Manning, the Pats have built a defense no one in league wants to throw against. Or run against, if we’re being honest. Expect free safety Devin McCourty to come off a big year with another huge season, as help at cornerback will give him the green light to ball hawk and poach wobbly Manning passes (wounded ducks are hereditary).
Otherwise, it’s pretty simple. Don’t lose very winnable games in the division and the New England Patriots will be headed to their fifth consecutive first-round bye — just a game away from a rematch with Peyton. This time around, however, they’ll have a few more weapons and the added bonus of knowing how you stop him (courtesy of the Seattle Seahawks).
Actual prediction: 12-4, lose AFC Championship because the Broncos are better.