Last season, the Patriots fell short of winning back-to-back Super Bowl titles when they lost to the Eagles in Super Bowl LII. They’re trying to make it to the big game for a third straight season, but in order to do that they will have to overcome a four-game suspension handed down to WR Julian Edelman for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. That takes away one of QB Tom Brady’s favorite weapons for the season’s first four games, but Edelman missed all of last season after tearing his ACL in the preseason so having him for any of this season will be a bonus. They did add some pass-catchers who he will be able to throw to, though, including WRs Cordarrelle Patterson and Eric Decker. This offseason also saw them trade for CB Jason McCourty, sign RB Jeremy Hill and select RB Sony Michel in the first round of the draft. Among players departing the Patriots since the end of last season are TE Martellus Bennett RB Dion Lewis and WRs Malcolm Mitchell, Danny Amendola and Brandin Cooks. Despite the personnel changes, as long as Brady stays healthy the Patriots should continue one of the best offenses in the league.
The Brady-led offense ranked first in the league with 6,307 yards and second with 458 points last season. Brady threw for 4,577 yards last season, with 32 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. TE Rob Gronkowski was the team’s best receiver, recording 69 receptions for 1,084 yards and eight touchdowns in 14 games. WR Chris Hogan had 34 catches for 439 yards and five touchdowns in nine games. Patterson had 31 receptions for 309 yards with the Raiders last season. RB Mike Gillislee carried the ball on the ground 104 times, gaining 383 yards with five touchdowns in nine games. RB Rex Burkhead had 64 carries in 10 games for 264 yards and five scores, with 30 receptions for an additional 254 yards and three touchdowns. RB James White only had 43 carries in his 14 games, but he caught 56 passes for 429 yards and three touchdowns. The defense ranked near the bottom of the league in points allowed but was fifth in points allowed.
The Patriots open at home in Week 1 against the Texans, then have an AFC Championship rematch in Week 2 when they play the Jaguars in Jacksonville. Another road game follows in Week 3, against the Lions. The Patriots have three straight home games in Weeks 4-6 when the Dolphins, Colts and Chiefs come to Foxborough. The Patriots visit the Bears in Week 7 and the Bills in Week 8, then face the Packers at home in Week 9. A Week 10 road game against the Titans leads into the Patriots’ Week 11 bye. Coming out of the bye, the Patriots visit the Jets in the first of the teams’ two meetings. The Patriots host the Vikings in Week 13, and then they have road games against the Dolphins and Steelers in Weeks 14 and 15, respectively. The Patriots get two divisional games at home to end the regular season; the Patriots host the Bills in Week 16 and the Jets in Week 17.
As has been the case for much of the Patriots’ dynasty under Brady and Bill Belichick, the other three teams in the AFC East aren’t very good and the Patriots are clearly the best team in the division. Having said that, Brady is 41 and is likely to start regressing at some point, but he showed no signs of that last season. As long as he can stay healthy this year, the Patriots should get another division title with double-digit wins. Edelman missing the first four games gives other players a chance to get involved in the passing game, and Michel should get worked into the team’s game plan as the season progresses, although he has been dealing with a meniscus injury that could limit his playing time early in the season. At the end of the season, expect the Patriots to earn their 10th straight division title and get another playoff appearance.