In my previous edition of my NFL previews segment, I kicked it off with a preview of my favorite team, the Miami Dolphins. With that in mind, I figured I should stay inside the division and preview all of the teams that I hate. Today's edition will start that process. First up, the New England Patriots. The Patriots have been the standard bearer in the AFC East for the better part of the last two decades, going to and winning multiple Super Bowls since 2000. Their stranglehold on the division may be weakening this season though, and here's why:
Key Losses: The biggest loss that New England suffered in free agency was the departure of their stand out wide receiver, and Tom Brady's favorite target, Wes Welker. Welker is now a part of the Denver Broncos organization and he leaves a huge hole in the New England offense in his absence. Welker had more than 110 receptions every year in New England except for the 2010 season (where he caught a still-respectable 86 balls). That production puts him at the very top of the wide receiver class in that span of time (since 2007). He has also had more than 1,100 yards every year (again except for 2010) in the same amount of time. He has been the best receiver in football and there's no way that you can replace a guy that has meant that much to your franchise. The Patriot way is to not pay their players (except for the "Golden Boy" Tom Brady) and let them either deal with it or move on when their contract is up. In the past it has worked out for them, but this time I think they've made a poor decision. It gets even more suspect when you consider who they got to replace him.
Key Additions: Danny Amendola. If that's not a name you're familiar with, don't feel bad. He's not a name that the causal fan would know. He's toiled away in relative obscurity so far in his career, coming over from the hapless St. Louis Rams. Amendola is a good young wide receiver, don't get me wrong, but he is not comparable to Welker in terms of production. Amendola's best year came in, coincidentally, Welker's worst year, 2010. That year, Amendola had 85 receptions for 689. In his best season, Amendola's production does not equal that of Welker's worst. To add insult to injury (literally), in his four seasons in the NFL, Amendola has played 16 games only once, in the aforementioned 2010 season. He missed five games last season with a broken collar bone. He missed two games in his rookie year, and missed the entire season save for one game in the 2011 season. To say that Amendola is injury prone would be an understatement. To rely on a guy that has issues staying on the field to replace the most productive wide receiver in football is a gamble that I think is going to backfire on the New England Patriots in a big way.
What it means: The loss of Welker and the subsequent replacing with an inferior player should mean a significant decrease in offensive production for the Patriots. I don't think I'm willing to go so far as to say that they will miss the playoffs this season, but I do think that they are in serious jeopardy of losing the AFC East crown to the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins have made a significant improvement in their talent whereas the Patriots have only lost talent and replaced it with less than they lost. I foresee a Wild Card this season for the Patriots. But, if the last few seasons have taught us anything, a Wild Card may mean that the Patriots are even more dangerous than had they won the division outright.
Welcome! My name is Chris Spooner. I am an overly-passionate Dolphins fan who has many opinions about his team, and the sports landscape as a whole. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy voicing them.