2015 New England Patriots Preview: Winds of Change

When Malcolm Butler jumped Ricardo Lockett’s slant in the waning moments of Super Bowl XLIX, it was one of the great plays in NFL championship history. In one swoop Butler thwarted a Seahawk dynasty. Cemented the post Spy Gate legacy of Tom Brady, and insured his name will be bought up at the end of every close Super Bowl through out eternity. In the next couple of weeks, the Patriots will receive their championship rings commemorating the event.

McCourty and HightowerYet now the Patriots have to get back to work. Amid all the pomp and circumstance is the pending suspension of Tom Brady. The Chancellor’s stance is he will miss the first 4 weeks.

If it were true the signing of CBs Brandon Browner and Darelle Revis made the Patriots a Super Bowl contender, what does their departure mean?? Now subtract Vince Wilfork (The U) from the center of that line and the Patriots are rebuilding defensively.

They re-signed LB Brandon Spikes and released him after the ordeal with his abandoned car / accident. They did not need another p.r. hit on the heels of an Aaron Hernandez guilty verdict, and the aftermath of “Deflate-gate.

Brady's suspension appeal will fully impact the 2015 season.

Brady’s suspension appeal will fully impact the 2015 season.

Offensively: This begins and ends with the upcoming suspension of Tom Brady. If he serves his full suspension, he can’t practice with the team and wouldn’t be back until week 5 against the Colts. The offense won’t get in rhythm until the 9th or 10th week. Keep in mind Brady is 37 yrs of age where the difference shows up in hundredths of a second off in throwing motion and velocity. This leads to interceptions on passes toward the sideline 10-15 yards downfield.

Belichick will have to balance the offense in his absence. He did it masterfully with LeGarrette Blount (281 yds) and Jonas Gray (412 yds) last year when Stevan Ridley was lost to injury. Last year’s 2nd leading rusher Shane Vereen (391 yds) was re-signed where Ridley was lost to free agency.

The team just announced today the signing of QB Matt Flynn. In Jimmy Garoppolo the Patriots don’t fully trust. So now they have some quarterback insurance if Brady’s appeal is unsuccessful.

Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich are averaging 16 sacks per season as a tandem.

Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich are averaging 16 sacks per season as a tandem.

Defensively: One block in the rebuilding of the defensive line came on draft day when Texas DT Malcolm Brown was taken in round 1. The 320 lb. is more of a 3 technique DT than a NT like the departed Wilfork. Belichick will rotate him in with Alan Branch and Chris Jones given all the fronts he uses.

The saving grace to this defense is the tandem of Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich. Jones, with 23.5 sacks in his first 3 years, is due to break out in his 4th season. Those long Jevon Kearse-like arms make him an ideal blind side rusher. He’s across from Ninkovich, who is the consummate professional coming off an 8 sack season. The rush will need to offset the inexperience in the secondary.

Overall: This team is steady but not spectacular and that will come back to haunt New England in 2015.  It looks to be the last time the Patriots will be clearly the best team in  the AFC East. As a champion last year they split with Miami and Buffalo then swept the Jets by a combined total of 3 points. It just takes a couple bounces of the ball to go from 12-4 to 10-6.

Now remove Tom Brady from the equation for 4 weeks and the accumulative effect of all these distractions. Add to that the loss of Revis and CB Brandon Browner and an 8-8 to 9-7 record is very possible. Remember this defense was 16th against the pass, 13th overall and allowed 313 points with those two and Wilfork. Where will the on-field leadership come from??

Patriot fans better pray that Brady’s suspension is reduced. If not, this team could be 1-4 after the first 5 games. This team is steady but not spectacular. There are no real play makers to turn around tight games outside of Brady and he turns 38 August 3rd. If the suspension stays in place, the best this team will finish is 9-7.

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AFC Divisional Playoff: Indianapolis Colts @ New England Patriots

After one of the greatest come from behind victories in NFL history, the Colts have earned a first class trip to New England. Their mission, should they choose to accept it, is to stop the Patriots from making a 3rd straight trip to the AFC Championship Game. The Colts are riding an emotional high but do they have the horses to win a high stakes playoff game against Bill Belichick and Tom Brady??

Andrew Luck came of age in last week's comeback. The Colts will always believe they can win from this point forward, no matter the deficit.

Andrew Luck came of age in last week’s comeback. The Colts will always believe they can win from this point forward, no matter the deficit.

One of the items that gets lost in the aftermath of last week is Indy gave up a near playoff record 513 yards and 44 points. They gave up 378 yards passing and 4 touchdowns to Alex Smith at home, and now they plan to improve on that against Brady on the road?? Never forget weaknesses are magnified in the playoffs. Hard to improve on the 20th ranked defense when they’re not playing well.

Don’t forget the last time Tom Brady saw the Indianapolis Colts, he draped 59 points on them. Of course fans will say Luck is playing better now. However he doesn’t play linebacker or cover receivers. Last week, Pro Bowl DE Robert Mathis had a timely sack and forced fumble, but that was it.

Legarrette Blount has played like Dorsey Levens  of late.

Legarrette Blount has played like Dorsey Levens of late.

Now some may point out the Patriots aren’t the same team they were a year ago and they’re right. Brady has had a modest season by his standards. Yet the Pats have shifted strategies. In their last two games against the Ravens and Buffalo Bills, they rushed for 142 and 267 yards respectively. Those were the 10th and 12th best defenses also, Indy’s is 20th. One was getting revenge on the defending champions that ended their season last year, and the other was against a division rival playing in the equivalent of their Super Bowl.

Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich will pressure Andrew Luck today.

Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich will pressure Andrew Luck today.

The Colts will need to run the football and control the tempo of the game. If not Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich will come after Luck. Their not as flashy as a Robert Mathis but they did combine for 19.5 sacks 3 forced fumbles and 4 fumble recoveries. Add to that the genius of Belichick when it comes to taking away an opponents best receiver. He will keep TY Hilton from getting open which will make Luck hold the football even longer which will allow the rush more time to get there.

Everyone has their eye on Andrew Luck but The Chancellor of Football’s is on the defensive alignment and assignments that Belichick will throw at him. I have gone on record calling him the greatest coach of the last 50 years in the NFL. He configured a 2 man line defense that slowed the 90 Bills in Super Bowl XXV. The week before he stopped Joe Montana and the Niners from 3-peating with normal 3-4 and safeties over the top. He stopped The Greatest Show on Turf when he repeated his Super Bowl XXV performance upsetting the Rams in XXXVI. He spent the last decade keeping Peyton, Edgerrin James, and Marvin Harrison from reaching the Super Bowl while he won 3. Each of those teams had 3 Pro Football Hall of Fame talents on those rosters.. Do you really think he can’t stop a second year quarterback and a modest talent in Hilton??

Look for LaGarrette Blount to get the football on a rainy day. The Colts weren’t tackling well last week and will struggle stopping the run. In a physical game the Patriots will win 31-13. What happened to this team when they played earlier against the Seahawks and 49ers?? They rose to the occassion then and Head Coach Chuck Pagano needs them to wake up and get back to that tonight.

Who do you have in this game??