The beginning of the NFL season always means fans have the opportunity to be optimistic about their team’s chances. Even St. Louis Rams diehards can delude themselves into thinking their squad has a shot this time around.
For the past decade, New England fans have had good reason to be optimistic, and while that shouldn’t change this time around, the team does enter the season with more than its share of problems.
The Patriots, it goes without saying, are still the Patriots. Tom Brady is locked up for the significant future. Randy Moss, though unhappy, is playing for a contract. Wes Welker is back from knee surgery, and Bill Belichick is in charge.
That’s what is most important, but the team is riddled with question marks otherwise. Can young cornerbacks Devin McCourty and Darius Butler provide adequate pass defense? Can the offensive line hold up without Nick Kaczur and Logan Mankins? Are any of the Patriots running backs actually good? Can the defensive front dominate without Ty Warren?
The biggest problem that the Patriots have, though, may in fact be their schedule and rivals. The Patriots have two against the all-of-a-sudden powerhouse New York Jets, two against the tough Miami Dolphins, their obligatory matchup with Peyton Manning and the Colts, and draws against the NFC and AFC Norths. This means they get Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Green Bay and Minnesota.
It’s going to be tough treading.
If they can survive this gauntlet and make it to the playoffs, they will surely meet many of these tough customers again.
Baltimore and the Jets are vastly better than in 2009. San Diego likely will still be tough. The Colts have Bob Sanders back, and the NFC is probably now even better than the AFC. The Saints may be the league’s best team again in 2010, and many are picking Green Bay and Dallas for Super Bowl runs.
Sportsbook.com currently sets the over-under for the Patriots win total at 9.5 wins, and makes them favorites to win the AFC East at plus-120, slightly worse than even money.
For the Super Bowl, they are plus-1400, a one in 15 chance.
So how do you think the Patriots will finish this season?
Share your thoughts below.
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