A Look Back – Last year was supposed to be the return to greatness for the New England Patriots. They were good enough to win all 16 regular season games two years before, and in spite of the fact that QB Tom Brady missed virtually the entire 2009 campaign, they were still capable of winning 11 games. Surely, they’d win the AFC East and make a deep run in the playoffs, right? Wrong. New England looked mortal last year, and though it won the AFC East, it wasn’t convincingly. Baltimore knocked it out of the playoffs in the first round with relative ease.

Key Addition – P Zoltan Mesko – It isn’t normal for a team to call a punter a key acquisition, but that’s exactly what Mesko is for the Pats. P Chris Hanson averaged a putrid 39.7 yards per punt last year, while Mesko, in his final year at Michigan, averaged 44.5 yards per punt and didn’t have one blocked. He’s used to kicking in miserable weather as well, and could be a tremendous and very underrated asset for HC Bill Belichick to use.

New England Patriots NFL Cheerleader

Key Loss – DE Adalius Thomas – Thomas was a superstar when he came to New England a few years ago, but for whatever reason, it just never worked out quite right for the Pats. Thomas played in 14 games last season, starting 11, but he only picked up three sacks and wasn’t a huge difference maker. Still, there is a huge hole in the linebacking corps now for the Patriots to fill, and there’s a big question mark about who is going to step up and fill that void.

2010 Will Be a Success if… – The Pats get their swagger back. New England had you beaten more often than not before you ever got off the bus in 2008. When it came into the stadium, there was just an aura around it that said it couldn’t be beaten. The Patriots looked mortal last season, and for the first time in years, there was a ton of confusion on the sidelines when things weren’t going right. Get that swagger back, and the Pats should be in the driver’s seat yet again in the AFC East.

The Crucial Game – Everyone in New England has October 17th circled with a big red pen. The Patriots welcome the Ravens back to Gillette Stadium for the first time since getting knocked out of the playoffs by them last year. Baltimore has an even better team now than before, and taking care of it would be a huge boost for the Pats for the rest of the season. If they survive the trip to the Meadowlands in Week 2, the Patriots might be 5-0 at that point.

Predictions – Even though New England isn’t getting the same type of respect it had in years past, it is still the best team in the AFC East. Winning the division with 11-12 wins should be the result once again even though the schedule is incredibly difficult. The NFL season wins totals for the Patriots is just 9.5 wins.

2010 New England Patriots Regular Season Schedule

9/12 vs. CIN
9/19 @ NYJ
9/26 vs. BUF
10/4 @ MIA
10/17 vs. BAL
10/24 @ SD
10/31 vs. MIN
11/7 @ CLE
11/14 @ PIT
11/21 vs. IND
11/25 @ DET
12/6 vs. NYJ
12/12 @ CHI
12/19 vs. GB
12/26 @ BUF
1/2 vs. MIA

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