The New England Patriots’ 2017 season begins in just two days, so it’s the last chance to get some predictions on record.
And these aren’t just regular predictions, they’re bold (notice the typeface). Let’s get into it, and don’t forget to bookmark this page and set a reminder to check in January. Send all congratulations for the correct predictions to @DougKyed on Twitter.
Tom Brady will win MVP.
I’d have more confidence if Julian Edelman didn’t tear his ACL in the preseason, but perhaps that will actually increase Brady’s chances because the level of difficulty will be that much higher.
Rex Burkhead will lead Patriots running backs in yards from scrimmage.
If he stays healthy.
I see Burkhead playing a big role both on the ground and in the passing game. And he could be the Patriots’ Week 1 lead back based on how well he played in Week 2 of the preseason.
Mike Gillislee is the popular choice, but Burkhead offers more value as a receiver.
Phillip Dorsett will finish fifth among Patriots wide receivers in both receptions and yards.
Trading Jacoby Brissett for Dorsett was a good deal because it gets a skill player with upside in the system for two years in exchange for a third quarterback who ideally will never play.
That doesn’t mean Dorsett will be productive in 2017, though. I see Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell and Danny Amendola finishing with better stats.
Chris Hogan will lead the team in receptions.
The Hogan hype is deserved. Hogan is bigger than Edelman, Troy Brown, Wes Welker and Danny Amendola, but he’s the leading candidate to take over the slot role in 2017. Hogan has worked in the slot throughout his career, and he’s earned the trust of Brady over the last year.
Hogan’s biggest competition for leading the team in catches is either Cooks or Rob Gronkowski. Cooks doesn’t have the experience with Brady, and Gronkowski always is an injury risk. I see Cooks having a season similar, but better, than Deion Branch had in 2005, when he caught 78 catches for 998 yards.
The Patriots’ leading punt returner isn’t on the team yet.
I just don’t buy Danny Amendola taking on full-time punt return duties at nearly 32 years old. That seems ill-advised. And while the Patriots likely will give Dorsett the opportunity to return punts in practice, he doesn’t have much experience in the role at the pro level.
A rookie will finish at least third among defenders in sacks.
The candidates are Deatrich Wise, Adam Butler and Harvey Langi.
Come to think of it, is this even bold? The leaders will be Trey Flowers and Dont’a Hightower.
The Patriots won’t be forced to relinquish a third-round pick for Eric Rowe.
Rowe would have to play 50 percent of snaps or more in 2017 for the Patriots to give up a third-round pick, rather than a fourth-rounder, to the Philadelphia Eagles to complete last year’s trade.
While Rowe is the Patriots’ third best cornerback, I see Duron Harmon remaining the Patriots’ top nickel defensive back option and Jonathan Jones receiving just enough snaps to prevent Rowe from getting to 50 percent.
The Patriots’ defense will have at least four All-Pro selections.
The candidates are Flowers, Hightower, cornerbacks Malcolm Butler and Stephon Gilmore and safety Devin McCourty. At least four will deserve and earn first- or second-team All-Pro honors.
And two on their offensive line.
Nate Solder, Joe Thuney, Shaq Mason and Marcus Cannon all have the upside for the merit. At least two will receive it.
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images
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