FOXBORO, Mass. — The 2017 New England Patriots have the potential to be incredibly good — historically good, even. There’s a reason their players were being asked three months before the season about their chances of going 19-0.
Each player deflected those questions in typical Patriots fashion, downplaying the hype train that has continued to gain steam ever since New England won its fifth Super Bowl title back in February.
But the fact remains: Anything short of another championship will be viewed as a failure by this New England team, which added the likes of Brandin Cooks and Stephon Gilmore during its unexpected offseason shopping spree.
Vince Wilfork knows the feeling.
Wilfork, who officially retired from the NFL on Wednesday, was a part of the 2007 Patriots squad that went undefeated through its first 18 games only to lose in heartbreaking fashion in Super Bowl XLII. The Patriots’ quest for immortality was spoiled by a New York Giants team that had gone just 10-6 during the regular season.
This year’s Patriots have drawn comparisons to that high-flying ’07 team, which was transcendentally talented but fell short of its ultimate goal. In order for the 2017 season to end in a title, Wilfork said, the Patriots must seek to validate their hype and avoid buying into it.
“If I had to tell them anything, it’s just, ‘Prove,’ ” Wilfork said during his retirement ceremony at Gillette Stadium. “Prove you’re good. Prove you are champions. Don’t believe it — just prove it.
“It’s easy to believe in your heart and in your mind that you’re good and great. You can believe that, but prove it. I want to see it. Everybody else wants to see it. So I don’t want to talk about how good we’re going to be. Prove it to me. And that’s what I would tell them. Prove your next move. Prove that you want to be Super Bowl champs. Prove it.”
The Patriots enter the preseason as overwhelming Super Bowl favorites. They have +350 odds to win it all on sportsbook Bovada, followed by the Green Bay Packers (+750) and Oakland Raiders (+1,000).
Thumbnail photo via Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports Images