So now we know who we'll be playing in the Preseason...but like that really matters. Don't get me wrong, I plan on watching every minute of Preseason football, but whether we win or lose then doesn't make that huge of a deal since those games are really just tryouts for the regular season. So in light of that, let's examine the strengths and weaknesses of all these teams that we've announced we'll be playing at home this year.
We'll start with the New England Patriots
Strengths: Offense, Coaching
Well of course...Giselle is probably the biggest reason Tom Brady is so protected by everyone! Right? Well...probably not, no. With all kidding aside, even with all the optimism for this upcoming year, we have to keep in mind that these New England Patriots are not to be trifled with, and it's because of these four men right here. Tom Brady...well what is there to say? He's Tom Brady, and as much as I despise the man and his smug self, I respect him as a Quarterback because he is clearly a future Hall of Famer, and if you don't watch yourself, he will burn you.
Rob Gronkowski or "Gronk" as he's called...honestly I think "Kronk" would be a better name, taking it from the Emperor's New Groove, because like the character Kronk, Gronk is big, strong...and apparently not too bright as he keeps putting himself in positions to get hurt in the offseason.
See the resemblance?
But unfortunately, and also like Kronk, Gronk is Brady's (Yzma's?) right hand man, always getting mismatches on any poor linebacker unlucky enough to get stuck trying to cover him. And any team who puts a Corner or a Safety on this beast of a Tight End ends up getting burned by the receivers themselves instead. Idea! Let's turn Gronk into a flea, then put him in a box, put that box inside of another box, and then smash it with a hammer! Brrrrrrrilliant!
...What? Yeah...I guess that wouldn't be prudent...not to mention impossible. Besides, even if we somehow could turn Gronk into a flea, Brady still has another go-to target in Aaron Hernandez, who I do not have a funny comparison for. Hernandez is a speedier version of Gronkowski, and when they're both on the field together, linebackers start pulling hair out because they know that one or the other is gonna be targeted.
And you know what? All that doesn't come together without the "genius" of one Bill Belichick. This man is the sorest loser I've ever seen, and I again take the time to applaud Shannon Sharpe for calling this man out for refusing to talk to the CBS 4 media like every other coach in the entire NFL does after losing. But giving the man credit where credit is due, he's done more than excellent as the head coach of the New England Patriots...even without the help of spygate.
Ahem...at any rate, the strength of the New England Patriots clearly lies in their offense, with Brady slinging the football and Gronk *coughcoughKronkcough* and Hernandez causing havoc, it opens up the lanes for maybe slightly above average players in Stevan Ridley and the newly acquired replacement for Wes Welker: Danny Amendola. But fear not, this juggernaut of an offensive attack is the only thing really dangerous about the Patriots.
Weaknesses: Defense, No Wes Welker
The numbers show that in the past two years, the New England Patriots were ranked 31st in yards allowed per game in 2011, ahead of only the Green Bay Packers in that category, and in 2012 they leapfrogged all the way to 24th in yards allowed...ooh, big deal. While I'm positive that they'll be taking steps to improve their defense, there are still several weak spots that can be exploited with the exception of a couple of players such as the big man Vince Wilfork.
The biggest thing that can be exploited is the secondary. Yes, they re-signed Aqib Talib who supposedly is a great victory signing for New England...but according to the media, what isn't a victory signing for the Patriots? But he was on that team last year, and the New England secondary last year allowed 271.4 yards per game, which means they have to rely on Brady constantly to put points on the board, and since they gave up 20.7 points per game last year, that means Brady had to score at least two touchdowns on average for them to keep up, not even accounting for rushing touchdowns, field goals and defensive touchdowns. Oh yeah, there is one aspect of the defense that's scary about New England. The Patriots were ranked 3rd only behind the Green Bay Packers and the San Francisco 49ers in turnover ratio, which means their defense generated 17 more turnovers than their offense allowed. Does that mean much? Especially considering they were behind Green Bay and the BAAAAAAAD man that he is, Aaron Rodgers? Yes it does mean something, because it means when their defense does something right, they capitalize on it, so we can't afford to make dumb mistakes.
And finally, Wes Welker is gone. Hallelujah, no more tiny slot receiver making our life miserable. One of the biggest annoyances I had with watching Brady throw was that he always managed to find a way out of a jam just by throwing the ball to his security blanket for five yards. I wondered why Tannehill didn't do the same with Bess, since it looks all so easy. But now Welker's gone, and despite Amendola's advantage in youth, Amendola is injury prone, and I'm willing to bet he'll get hurt again.
Blueprint to Victory:
I'll say it again, the easiest way to beat the New England Patriots is to get pressure on Tom Brady. Stephen A. Smith says it all the time, and I'll say it again. If you put pressure on Tom Brady, he'll start to tap dance like the late great Gregory Hines!
See what I mean? Look at those feet go! Anyway, Brady gets skittish in the pocket when people are getting to him, and even Brady isn't perfect, he'll make desperate passes in hopes of avoiding a hit, and when he makes that mistake, we all have the pleasure of seeing this.
I guess he figures if he looks down and can't see anyone, we can't see him either. This is the man the media protects like a precious gem? Whatever. Pressure is key, and if Cameron Wake can get some help from Olivier Vernon or Jared Odrick, or even a draft pick that may get picked up. I'm still holding out hope for Dwight Freeney or John Abraham, the closer we get to the draft, the more desperate players will be to get picked up, and prices will plummet and they'll take less money to play for a 1-2 year deal, just to ensure they get something.
The offense is severely weakened if you pressure Brady, and then Brent Grimes and whoever our #2 guy turns out to be can start picking off desperation passes. Speaking of passes, that's how our offense can beat New England. I believe that with the weapons he's acquired, Ryan Tannehill can potentially win in a shootout with Tom Brady, but only if we're getting pressure on him. If we throw in a few runs by Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas (and possibly someone else in coming), we'll have a balanced offense that we can utilize, but clean play is important. No mistakes, because they'll take advantage of it.
Difficulty Level: Hard
The Patriots are incredibly dangerous on offense, and because of the firepower that comes with having Tom Brady going up against you, the Patriots are ranked hard because if you don't get pressure on Brady, he'll beat you with his arm. If you make foolish errors, they'll beat you in turnovers. We have to play smart, and we have to play hard, and that strategy has to be stressed even more when playing in Foxborough. If we do all that, New England becomes no more than an even match.