Team Profiles- New England Patriots by Utter-Fantasy Writer & Illustrator Doug Bowles
Peanut butter & jelly, Simon & Garfunkle, shoes & socks, bacon & eggs, Belichick & Brady…all are pairings that just go together. Arguably the best coach-quarterback combo in the history of the NFL, and a couple that can boast of being four-time Super Bowl champions. Six Super Bowl appearances in total, and the winningest coach-QB combo in NFL playoff history with 21 wins. The rest of the AFC East division may not like hear this, but when asked if winning Super Bowl XLIX was a perfect way to end a career, the 37-year-old Brady replied “No. I’ve got a lot of football left.” Belichick has a lot of football left as well, so don’t count the dynamic duo out from getting Superbowl win #5 in 2015.
2015 Team Outlook– Belichick, Brady, and the whole Patriots team for that matter, are as competitive as any team in the league, so they may wish that the AFC East division wasn’t such push over to win. For them, it doesn’t seem harder than getting a good poker hand using only a Pinochle deck. Unfortunately for Buffalo, Miami, and New York, who share the division with New England, 2015 isn’t looking much better than 2014. Buffalo and the Jets don’t even know who their starting QB will be. The Dolphins have had only one winning season since 2005 and nothing has changed so far to make anyone think that they’re about to go to the next level. If the team stays healthy, you aren’t going out on a limb to already predict that the Pats will be the division champs of the AFC East in 2015.
2015 Fantasy Outlook–
QB– It would take more than a paragraph to describe everything that QB Tom Brady has accomplished in the NFL. Every season he breaks new records and is generally considered among the greatest quarterbacks of all time. Brady finished the 2014 season with the 3rd most points for fantasy owners, throwing for 4109 yards, 33 TDs and only 9 INTs. Only QB Aaron Rodgers threw fewer INTs (5) with 33+ TDs thrown in 2014. Only a pernicious injury will slow QB Brady down in 2015. UPDATE: Commissioner Roger “Puppet” Goodell said July 9th that his ruling on Tom Brady’s appeal of his four-game suspension is “coming very soon.
RBs– Because HC Belichick loves to keep opposing defenses, sports writers, fans and fantasy owners always guessing, Tom Brady is about the only one on the Patriots roster that is always a constant. Belichick is a firm believer that with a few core pieces in place, the rest of the roster can be a variety of players that go in and out of starting line ups like dishes at a pot luck dinner. In the 2013 playoff game vs the Indianapolis Colts, running back LeGarrett Blount led the Patriots to a victory with 166 rushing yards and 4 TDS. He also ended the regular season as the 29th ranked RB with over 800 total yards and 7 TDs. “Thanks LeGarrett, and oh by the way, we don’t want to re-sign you.” RB Blount signed with Pittsburgh for the 2014 season, but was released after Week 11. He then re-signed with New England. He is currently listed as the #1 RB for the Pats, but this doesn’t mean anything. RB Blount could be the starter 5 minutes before kickoff in September 2015 and be de-activated one minute before kickoff. Blount shares the NE roster with RBs Brandon Bolden, Jonas Gray, James White and Tyler Gaffney. (Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley are free agents.) Anyone of them could be the #1 RB for the Pats in 2015, or it could be someone that isn’t even on the team roster right now. UPDATE: Signed former Saint RB Travaris Cadet.
WRs– Belichick isn’t quite as erratic with the wide receiver starting line-ups as he is with the running backs starting line-ups. The bigger problem for fantasy owners is all the different weapons QB Brady has for any given game. A lot of different receivers and tight ends get targets from Brady, but WR Julian Edelman and WR Brandon LaFell have solidified their starting status for New England. Both should have productive 2015 seasons. WR Julian Edelman was the 11th ranked WR in the NFL last season and WR Brandon LaFell was the 18th. UPDATE: Re-signed WR Danny Amendola.
TEs– It was risky drafting TE Rob Gronkowski early in 2014 fantasty drafts, because of all the injuries that he battled from the previous season. In 2013, Gronk only played 7 games. Daring owners were paid off handsomely however, with Gronk ending the season as the #1 tight end in the league. He played in 15 games in 2014, and had 1124 yards with 12 TDs. If he doesn’t mess up a knee or ankle going down a Vegas water slide, he should start the 2015 100% healthy, and as the clear #1 TE in the NFL. UPDATE: Signed former Buffalo TE Scott Chandler.
K- Stephen Gostkowski, who ranked #1 among NFL kickers in 2014, has received the franchise tag from the New England Patriots. The move shows that Gostkowski, who converted 35 of his 37 field goal attempts last season, is considered a very valuable part of Belichick’s offense. UPDATE: K Gostkowski was re-signed
DEF– The Pats have a good enough defense to help win ball games, having had the 11th best record for sacks (40), the 11th best record for INTs (16) and average for defensive TDs (2). They were the #15 ranked defense in 2014. The Pats don’t have a lot of the defensive players heading for free agency, so if they can get Darrelle Revis resigned, they should be in good shape for the upcoming season. UPDATE: Lost CG Brandon Browner and CB Darrelle Revis. Re-signed FS Devin McCourty and signed CB Bradley Fletcher. The Pats DEF looks suspiciously bad heading into 2015, but if anyone can fool ya, it’s Belichick.
2014 New England Fantasy Surprises– I doubt very much that many people saw RB Blount resigning with New England in Week 12. His very first game back with the Pats, Blount carried the ball 12 times for 78 yards and 2 TDs. TE Gronkowski’s health was an issue going into the 2014 season, but he a was able to play 15 games. When RB Ridley went out for the year with an ACL/MCL tear in October of 2014, this should have been an opportunity for RB Vereen to reclaim the starting running back position, or at the very least, share in the RB workload, but Vereen only had 27 carries in the last 7 games of the season.
2015 Free Agents that New England Needs to Address– RB Shane Vereen (signed w/ NY Giants)- RB Stevan Ridley- G Dan Connolly- DE Alan Branch- CB Darrelle Revis (signed w/ NY Jets)- S Devin McCourty
2015 NFL Draft– The immediate needs of New England are with their pass rush, more help on their O-line and at the safety position. Injuries and free agency have put the Pat’s front-seven in jeopardy (DL), New England wants to keep QB Brady upright as much as possible so pass protection will be a draft priority (OG) and with FS Devin McCourty’s contract up, the Pats could be looking to draft at least one safety (S). UPDATE: New England’s entire 2015 NFL Draft can be seen at this link- NEW ENGLAND’S DRAFT
Did You Know– In 1994, James Orthwein offered Robert Kraft $75 million to buy out the remainder of the team’s lease at the Foxboro Stadium, which, if Kraft agreed, would have freed Orthwein to move the Patriots to St. Louis like he intended. Kraft however rejected the offer and made a counter bid for an NFL record at the time of $175 million for the outright purchase of the Patriots (The Pats in 1994 were among the least valuable franchises in the NFL.) Orthwein accepted. The value of the New England Patriots as of August of 2014 was $2.6 Billion.
Team Home Page: www.patriots.com