2014 Record – 12-4
LB Jabaal Sheard, LB Brandon Spikes, TE Fred Davis, CB Bradley Fletcher, TE Scott Chandler, DT Malcolm Brown, WR Reggie Wayne
CB Darrelle Revis, DT Vince Wilfork, LB Akeem Ayers, CB Brandon Browner, RB Shane Vereen, CB Kyle Arrington, LB Jonathan Casillas, RB Stevan Ridley, CB Alfonzo Dennard
*At time of publishing Tom Brady is still expected to serve a four game suspension.*
Tom Brady and Bill Belichick return to the New England Patriots together for their 15th season together, this time wielding the recently elusive Lombardi Trophy. However, the team may be forced to start their title defense with backup Jimmy Garoppolo due to the most ludicrous four game suspension ever handed out being served by Tom Brady. The offense did lose their two most productive members in the backfield when Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley took more money elsewhere, however LeGarrette Blount along with James White and Jonas Gray should be able to be a solid trio. Not to mention they won’t be asked to do much with Gronk and the rest of the talented receivers the Patriots have.
The defense also took some huge hits by losing five starters but the Patriots did a solid job of replacing those pieces through free agency and the draft. Bringing Jabaal Sheard and Malcolm Brown to fill immediate holes. Belichick is a scheme coach and always manages to find the pieces he needs to make his defensive unit effective. Depending on how the Brady situation pans out really is the deciding factor on where this team ends up in the postseason. They are almost guaranteed a spot but whether that is by wild card or another dominating season that lands them a one-seed hinges on the play and outcome of the quarterback situation.
X-Factor – Malcolm Butler
The X-Factor in the Super Bowl will the Patriots X-Factor this season. By losing both Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner to free-agency the Patriots need someone besides Devin McCourty to step up and make plays in a thin secondary. Butler will see more playing time this year and could be that guy.
2015 Breakout Player – James White
The Patriots were picked apart at running back though they do still have Blount at their disposal there is no other name that stands out on a team that tends to use a running back by committee attack. White only touched the ball 14 times during his 2014 rookie season, but those 14 touches did account for 61 yards. White is a speedy back who has excellent hands, look for a greater role this season.
Jimmy Garoppolo holds his own during Brady’s (pending) suspension and then hands the offense over to one of the games greats playing with a chip on his shoulder. 14-2
Garoppolo can’t figure things out, Brady returns for one of the tougher parts of the Patriots schedule and struggles finding his rhythm. 8-8
November 29 @ Denver
The first of four road games that the Patriots will play in their final six is against familiar foe Peyton Manning. Likely playing for postseason seeding this game will be huge for both teams. This is the last for the Patriots against a team that played in the 2014 postseason, securing their position and controlling their own destiny with five games left will be pivotal.