The reigning Super Bowl champions will face a tough test right out of the gate in the 2019 NFL season.
The New England Patriots will begin their title defense Sunday night when they welcome the Pittsburgh Steelers to Gillette Stadium. Both teams endured quite a bit of changeover during the offseason, highlighted by Rob Gronkowski’s retirement and the departures of Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell from the Steel City.
Given his ties to Baltimore, Ravens legend Ray Lewis likely was reluctant to pick either team to come out on top in this Week 1 showdown. But the Hall of Fame linebacker, who has a history of picking against the Patriots, believes New England willÂ win its first gameÂ game of the new campaign.
“You’re talking about the New England Patriots, the defending Super Bowl champions,” Lewis said during the season premiere of Showtime’s “Inside the NFL.” “I think the biggest adjustments this offseason was what Bill Belichick done from the defensive side of the ball. I just think that’s gonna be the biggest key. A lot of people talk about offense and what Tom Brady’s gonna do, but I think where the Patriots edge out this game is gonna be on the defensive side. I’m taking the Patriots.”
New England might need to rely on its defense to do the heavy lifting in its season opener. Not only will Brady be throwing to a handful of new offensive weapons, he’ll be taking snaps from a new center as well. And regardless of who earns the starting nod between Ted Karras and Russell Bodine, the chemistry, obviously, won’t be anywhere close to that of Brady’s and David Andrews’. The Patriots tend to endure early-season struggles year in and year out, and it might take the offense even more time than usual to develop a rhythm.
That said, New England’s defense is expected to make things awfully difficult for Ben Roethlisberger and Co., which could set the stage for a good ol’ fashion dog fight in Foxboro.