The NFL season has officially started, so it's time to fucking finish the impassioned season previews from various writers, bloggers, diehard fans, cooks, TV personalities, and numerous other walks of life whom consider football the only sport worth watching. Clearly, these previews will be running until, oh, the first round of the wild card playoffs based on how quickly they've been coming in. So, for the next few days, expect a lot of these. Actually, let's see how many we can get out in one day. Today: The New England Patriots. Your author is Kris Liakos. Kris Liakos is a lifelong Patriots fan and the Co-Editor of Walkoff Walk, which is a baseball blog and as such, totally irrelevant in this italicized intro paragraph.The Legacy Of 18-1: Well there isn't much of a legacy, is there? There's a lot of significance in the 1, and nothing else. The Patriots begin this season as Super Bowl losers (the second biggest jinx in the NFL) and by design must disregard the eighteen games they won last year. Unprecedented in number and incident, but ultimately not much different from 6 out of the last 7 Super Bowl losers that have finished under .500 the following season. Last year's single most talented team returns as a prohibitive favorite and a punchline.
The Defense: I saw Asante Samuel in his high school production of Lil' Abner, because my girlfriend at the time was also in the play. Despite having the uncanny knack for being in the right place for 16 INTs over the past two seasons, that was primarily how I identified with him. Lil' Abner. That changed after he let the would be SB clinching INT go right through his jazz hands, then hightailed it out of town before he could be Bucknerized. His big chokey cleats are being filled by undrafted Terrence Wheatley out of Colorado. That's a downgrade, and with Ellis Hobbs' predilection for getting burned Shriner style, deep threats could have big games against New England.
At linebacker, Tennessee Volunteer Jerod Mayo was drafted to fill the inside slot. Mike Vrabel needs to recapture the magic of a 12.5 sack (!) career year, which seems extremely unlikely. Tedy Bruschi takes time off as insurance/window/defibrillator/candy apple/lawnmower salesman to return for another year.
John Lynch made the news up here for a couple days before showing some serious age in the final preseason game and getting cut post haste. Rodney Harrison and James Sanders form the middling safety corps. Harrison is old and will stab you. Please get over the fact that he plays dirty. We all get it.
Richard Seymour, Vince Wilfork and Ty Warren, are respectively: a street walking cheetah with a heart full of napalm, a runaway son of the nuclear a-bomb and the world's forgotten boy that searches and destroys. They're still great upfront. The worry is what happens behind them.
The Foxboro Sports Tavern:
The Offense: Tom Brady's foot injury was clearly fictional. He's starting to do weird celebrity stuff. I expect him to start wearing surgical masks out in public any day now. I also expect him to throw another 35-40 TDs to Moss/Welker/Watson/et al.
Lawrence Maroney returns for his third year at running back, augmented by Kevin Faulk once he returns from his 1 game league suspension. He was totally holding, man.
The offensive line was so violently thrashed in the Super Bowl that I expect nothing less than an entire offseason of Freudian unpacking on a leather couch helped them get over it. The unyielding bearded whiteness of said line is being broken by one Billy Yates at right guard. Yates has been on the Patriots' practice squad since 2004. Keep a wary eye on this group, but if you have to bet on it, expect the o-line you saw in those first 18 games of last year.
Aerial View of the Foxboro State Hospital:
Prediction: The schedule is weak. They start off with KC, @NYJ, MIA, BYE and @SF before facing the Chargers. If they can take advantage of the early softness and be firing on all cylinders by week 6, the Pats will be another runaway train through the regular season.
Like that matters.
p.s. Andre Tippett should have gotten more pub for his HoF induction this summer. Way to go, Andre.