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
Bye
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

 

Randy Moss Fires Agent

Randy Moss fired his longtime agent Tim DiPiero. The change started speculation the Moss was planning on ditching the New England Patriots when his contract expires after this season, but that is not the case.

Moss fired his agent because he is looking for someone who can get him more sponsorship deals and other off-field business opportunities. The move is not likely to affect Moss’ play on the field.

The New England Patriots are among the top teams in the NFL again this season with the fifth best odds to win the Super Bowl at +1100.

 

The NFL draft is rapidly approaching and which means it is time for NFL draft props. Draft props are a great way of putting your mock-draft abilities to the test.

The over/under on Defensive Tackles taken in Round 1 is 4.5 with the over paying +160 and the under just -180.

Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy will almost certainly be gone in the top five, but the question is are there three more players talented enough to be worth a first-round picks and are there three teams who need Defensive Tackles badly enough to burn a first round selection on one of the remaining candidates.

Dan Williams of Tennesse will almost certainly go in the first round giving a third defensive tackle.

Jared Odrick, Brian Price and Terrence Cody are the three remaining DT’s who are considered possible first-round material and you will need two of three to go in the first round to cover the over.

Odrick was arrested in March, so some teams might shy away from him, but he seems like a safe, but not exceptional pick.

Price declared one year early and has some upside in a 4-3 system, but he only has one really good year to his credit, so it is hard to say if he will be able to consistently perform at a high level.

Cody is intriguing because he has been working hard in the off-season to trim off some of his massive bulk and teams will like that commitment.

Possible destinations include the Cincinnati Bengals, the New England Patriots, the Baltimore Ravens, the New York Jets, the Minnesota Vikings and the New Orleans Saints.

My guess is the Cincinnati uses Tank Johnson to let them gamble on developing a DT with a lower pick, the Pats pass on DT and choose to address other needs first, Odrick goes to the Ravens.

That leaves one of Price and Cody to go to New York, Minnesota or New Orleans in order to cover and I don’t see either of them being good enough to cause those teams to ignore other needs.

The under looks like the play here, but at -180 it might not be worthwhile.

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Where will Julius Peppers end up?

Julius Peppers

Julius Peppers

One more day until we find out whether Julius Peppers goes for the money or he goes for the chance to win a championship.

He already has a boatload of money from his time with the Carolina Panthers, so he doesn’t need to pursue the highest-value contract. But, you can never have enough mansions.

If he wants to go for a Super Bowl, he’s going to have to accept less money since none of the teams that play in the sort of situation that he’s looking for can afford to spend what Peppers is asking for.

If rumors are to be believed, there are four likely destinations for Julius Peppers: the Chicago Bears, the Washington Redskins, the Philadelphia Eagles and the New England Patriots.

Chicago Bears

The Chicago Bears may not be able to afford Peppers, but they’d dearly like to have him in the line-up.

It’s rumored that some of the Bears staff met with Carl Carey who happens to be Peppers representative at the NFL Scouting Combine. Peppers is Carey’s only client, so unless they were talking about the weather…

Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles won’t be able to compete with some of the top-dollar teams, but if Peppers decides a championship is more important than money then the Eagles should be in the mix.

Peppers would help the Eagles short-term, but he doesn’t make a lot of sense. The Eagles don’t normally spend a lot on free-agents, and they don’t normally sign older players like Peppers to long expensive deals. They’d be more likely to sign some of the cheaper free agents out there.

Washington Redskins

Under Shanahan, the Redskins are switching to a 3-4 defense which means Peppers would have to switch to outside linebacker. But Peppers has already made it known that he’d like to see how he fits in a 3-4 defense.

The Redskins can afford send the Brinks truck to Peppers, but they’re probably not going to be a championship contender for a little while so Peppers would have to give up on his dream of winning a Super Bowl.

New England Patriots

The Patriots are the perfect 3-4 team for Peppers, but they can’t afford to pay him anywhere near what he’ll get from some other teams.

The Pats with Peppers become instant Super Bowl contenders. He could do that for any number of teams, but the Pats can afford to pay him more (at his discounted price) than he’s likely to get from teams like the Eagles.

Buyers Market for Veteran Backs

It’s a buyers market for aging 30-something running backs with Jamal Lewis, LaDainian Tomlinson and Brian Westbrook all on the market.

It’s pretty common knowledge that running backs tend to wear down when they hit 30 and all three have had underwhelming years, but all three could contribute given the right situation.

They may not be every-down backs any more, but I could see either one of them catching out of the back-field with the occasional run in the right sort of offensive system.

The New England Patriots would be a good candidate to pick up one of these guys to support their offense.

The Patriots are +1100 in Super Bowl odds and because of free agency rules, they’ll need smart signings and draft picks to improve.

There isn’t a team in the league that’s given their fans more to cheer about over the last 10 years than the Patriots. Three Super Bowls wins in four appearances, seven division titles, a 16-0 regular season, a record setting offense, the list goes on.

So how do those loyal Patriots fans respond? By booing their team in Sundays wildcard loss to the Ravens. The Ravens first play from scrimmage was an 83 yard touchdown run. The Patriots first series finished in a strip sack of Brady by Suggs, which led to another score for the Ravens.

With the team down 14-0 only five minutes into the game the crowd lost all faith in their team. Forgotten are all the comebacks dialed up by Brady and games won in the final seconds. Nope, Patriots fans weren’t having any of it. In their eyes the team was a disgrace.

The Ravens were the ones who benefited from this. Their arrogance was bubbling over even more than usual as the sound of frustrated fans only served to jack Lewis and company up more. At the end of the first quarter the Patriots were down 24-0.

New England’s defense settled down only allowing 9 points for the remaining three quarters. But the damage had been done. The Patriots offense never seemed to find it’s rhythm. At times it looked like a comeback was possible. It never manifested itself though, the Ravens just seemed to be getting all the bounces.

Would this game have been different had the crowd not disrespected their team? There’s a good possibility it may have. If you watched the game you could see how the Ravens were feeding off it. You could also see the frustration from the Patriots. Who wouldn’t be frustrated and let down?

It’s pretty obvious football doesn’t mean as much to Boston fans as baseball, basketball or hockey. Maybe the Patriots just don’t have the tradition Boston fans love. I’m really not quite sure why it is. I know that if my town had a team as successful as the Patriots have been there would be nothing but love for them. But like spoiled children, nothing is ever good enough for Patriots fans.

That’s the loudest the fans at a Patriots game have been in quite some time. Too bad it only served to help the Ravens play better. With all the talk about Jacksonville, Minnesota or a few other teams that have way better fans than the Patriots moving to Los Angeles, maybe it’s time to throw another team into that mix. The LA Patriots, it has a pretty nice ring to it. Much nicer than the ring heard in Gillette stadium Sunday afternoon.

T. Jay is the writer and founder of http://www.GridironInsight.com, a blog dedicated to giving people a different view of the NFL. You can follow everything on twitter at http://www.twitter.com/GridironInsight.

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