The New England Patriots are perennial Super Bowl contenders, but every year is different and this season will be a particularly tough one as many teams in the AFC have turned into formidable competitors. The Texans and the Bengals are no longer division doormats and other powerhouse teams such as the Ravens and the Steelers are returning with improved rosters. If the Patriots wish to win another ring there are a few things they will absolutely need to do in order to have a successful season.
The first thing the Patriots need to do is get a consistent running game going. As long as Tom Brady is under center this team will always maintain a pass first philosophy, however they can’t allow themselves to become one dimensional. The ground game may not be as prevalent as it was in years past, but good running backs, or even good running back committees, can control the pace of the game and make the offense more versatile. Stevan Ridley will most likely handle a majority of the carries, but Danny Woodhead and Shane Vereen are solid players as well and should make significant contributions. Using a combination of these three backs will prevent the Patriots from being predictable and if teams are somehow able to stop the explosive passing attack they can fall back on a solid running game.
The second thing the Patriots need is consistent play from their secondary. This is a young group of players, but last year they gained a lot of experience and hopefully they will return this year more prepared. Devin McCourty struggled last season and will need to return to Pro Bowl form otherwise this defense will struggle once again. A sophomore slump isn’t uncommon and I have no doubt that he will have a much better season this year. Cornerback Kyle Arrington was a huge surprise last year and ended up leading the league in interceptions (NFL.com), but he got beat on deep balls way too many times last season. If Arrington can avoid getting beat deep so often the Patriots will have a fairly good cornerback tandem. Safety Patrick Chung is an aggressive, hard hitting defensive back who is excellent against the run. With another year of experience under his belt he’ll be one the players to watch out for on this defense. This secondary also has some young stars like Sterling Moore who stepped up big time in the playoffs last season and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him used in multiple packages. Though the New England secondary lacks experience they have the talent to be great.
Finally the third key to the Patriots success is remaining injury free. Injuries are obviously unpredictable and unavoidable, but last year the defense really struggled to keep players on the field. Julian Edelman saw way too much time as a defensive back and although he played well considering the position he was put into he is by no means good enough at defensive back to be matched up with most receivers. The defensive line took a huge hit when Andre Carter got injured and this is another place where the Patriots simply can’t afford any injuries. New England doesn’t have the depth on defense to compensate for multiple injuries and although Bill Belicheck is excellent at hiding deficiencies in the defense there comes a point when there simply isn’t enough talent to execute the game plan.
These are just three things the New England Patriots will need to do to be successful, but rest assured fans this team looks ready to make a deep run in the playoffs!