ESPN (well, its ‘NFL Nation reporters’) apparently believes next season’s New England Patriots will do something the franchise hasn’t done since 2009.
That season, the Patriots “struggled” to a 10-6 record, eventually losing to the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Wild Card Round. In each of the following eight seasons, the Patriots have won at least 12 games, including two seasons (2010 and 2016) with 14 wins.
But it all comes crashing down next season, according to “The Mothership.”
With the release of each teams’ 2018 schedules fresh in mind, ESPN on Thursday published its annual regular-season predictions, and it has the Patriots going a decidedly meh 11-5. The explanation, however, is rather fair.
“A Week 11 bye is well placed for the defending AFC champions, giving them a mid-November break,” ESPN’s Mike Reiss wrote. “If everything goes according to plan, they will be ready to make their patented late-season push. But one thing that showed up in 2017, and bears watching this year, is the first month of the season was essentially an extension of the Patriots’ preseason (they were 2-2, and one could say were fortunate not to be 1-3).
“So an overall prediction of 11-5, which is below the team’s normal standard, takes that into account while also considering that five of the team’s first nine games are scheduled for prime-time. A Monday night game in Buffalo on Oct. 29 could be one of the most rabid, pure football environments on the entire NFL schedule.”
Let the debating begin.
Provided quarterback Tom Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski are back for New England (and those still are relatively big ‘ifs’), the Patriots should be among the NFL’s best teams next season. Still, the team’s brutal early portion of the schedule could make it difficult for them to reach their normally lofty win total.