The New England Patriots will welcome the Houston Texans to Gillette Stadium on Sunday, as they begin the pursuit of their third straight AFC Championship.

Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and Co. once again appear to be a near-lock to win the AFC East, and undoubtedly are one of the best teams in the NFL.

That being said, the Patriots did lose a number of important players this offseason, including Malcolm Butler, Dion Lewis, Danny Amendola and Brady’s blindside protector, Nate Solder. Of those four players, Solder’s absence could prove to be the thing that undoes New England’s season. If Brady is under constant pressure and spending a lot of time on the turf then the offense could sputter, putting more pressure on an unproven defense.

But, the Patriots did bring in Trent Brown to fill the hole left by Solder, and ESPN thinks he could have a big year.

On Thursday, ESPN’s NFL beat writers posted their bold predictions for the 2018 season, and Patriots beat writer Mike Reiss laid his at Brown’s feet.

“Trent Brown will earn Pro Bowl honors at left tackle,” Reiss writes. “One of the biggest questions for the Patriots entering 2018 was who would fill Nate Solder’s spot, and Brown not only has seized the role, he has dominated at times. Despite having just two career NFL starts at left tackle — with his primary work coming on the right side — he has exhibited some traits that could make him a Pro Bowl-caliber player if he puts them together consistently.”

Belichick and the Patriots certainly hope this prediction comes true.

Thumbnail photo via Sergio Estrada/USA TODAY Sports Images