There are 19 days until the New England Patriots open up training camp and begin their quest for another Superbowl ring. Not much has changed since their heartbreaking defeat in February: Josh McDaniels, Bill Belichick, Scott Pioli and company are still running the show, while Tom Brady, Rodney Harrison and friends are still working hard and preparing to execute their gameplan. Why will this year be different? Here are 19 reasons why the New England Patriots will do what they couldn’t last year — finish 19-0.
19. NFL Schedule
The Patriots have the easiest schedule you’re going to get on paper–six games versus the AFC East and four more against the AFC West. An early bye (Week 4) and a few tough road games in Indianapolis, San Diego, and Seattle are a few stumbling blocks that the Patriots will need to overcome.
18. Kelley Washington
A receiver on the Patriots that caught zero passes is valuable? Washington just happens to be the special-teams ace that continually flipped field position on teams, setting up countless short fields for Tom Brady to exploit.
17. Youth Movement
Most people would call the Patriots an old team, which is true. However, through some good acquisitions and draft picks, the Patriots are starting to develop a group of young players that work hard and learn from the veterans.
16. Ernie Adams
Ernie’s ridiculous memory is the ultimate help in game-planning and is a great supplement to Bill Belichick’s creative genius. Together, they make a great team, as has been evidenced since their time together with the Giants.
15. No (Fewer?) Distractions
Don’t see a need to comment too much on this, but let’s see we’ll be hard-pressed to have more distractions this year than 2007.
14. Chad Jackson
13. Jabar Gaffney
12. Ben Watson
11. Wes Welker
Tom Brady and Randy Moss aren’t a two-man show. These four receivers keep opposing defenses honest, and in Welker’s case, opens up the deep pass to Moss by running beautiful underneath routes. Chad Jackson will need to emerge this year to replace Donte Stallworth.
Cerberus, or the three-headed dog that guarded the gates to Hades, is what we call the combination of Faulk, Maroney, and Morris. Combined, they offer great inside and outside running, with great pass-catching and blitz pickup as well. Getting Morris back will be a big boost.
9. Bob Kraft
There is something to be said for learning from your mistakes, and Kraft has done that. After starting down the trail to a Dan Snyder-esque reign over the Patriots, Kraft backed off and hired some spectacular people. Kraft’s commitment to excellence has allowed the Patriots to compete for a title almost every year this decade.
8. Josh McDaniels
While he was hammered for his play-calling in the Superbowl, McDaniels had an amazing season last year that saw the Patriots put up an absurd amount of points. Most coaches could put up 35+ points in weeks 1-6 with the loaded offensive roster that the Patriots have, but to keep putting up the gaudy numbers after having teams adjust to what they knew was coming is pretty impressive.
7. Defensive Line
Vince Wilfork and the rest of the front three did a great job of masking some problems in the back eight last year, and they will need to do an even better job this year. If Richard Seymour is truly healthy this year, watch for some improved play from the front three.
6. Randy Moss
Tom Brady’s best friend has enabled the Patriots to spread the field using a symbiotic relationship with Welker. Moss should have another two sublime seasons left in the tank, and the Patriots will use him all they can.
5. Offensive Line
The Patriots might have the best unit in the league, and while they were somewhat exposed in the Superbowl, the Giants defensive line also played very well. With Matt Light hopefully recovered from his mystery illness from last year, look for the Bearded Bullies to be even better this year.
4. Veteran Leadership
We cited a young group of Patriots as one reason for the Patriots’ impending success, but that wouldn’t work without the leadership of veterans. Bruschi, Harrison, and many others demand a strong work ethic and supreme focus on the field. Belichick just loves to collect guys like that.
3. Bill Belichick
2. Scott Pioli
Belichick and Pioli have kept the Patriots window open for a long, long, time. With another great off-season behind them, the Patriots have another great shot at getting that elusive fourth ring.
1. Tom Brady
What, you were thinking Matt Cassell?